Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Media Should Demand Explanation From Gov. Mike Pence On Sawyer's Resignation

On August 15, 2013, Gov. Mike Pence stepped before reporters at the State House to announce his personal choice to replace outgoing state auditor Tim Berry after reviewing a host of candidates, including several with better credentials than his choice of Brownsburg Town Council President Dwayne Sawyer. "We had some outstanding men and women that we interviewed from all over the state of Indiana for this position, but again and again it was Dwayne Sawyer who emerged as the best choice for all the people of Indiana and it's an honor to announce his appointment," Pence said at the time. Pence also immediately declared his support for Sawyer's election at next year's state GOP convention as the 2014 candidate to fill the office for a four-year term. "As people in our party come to know this good man and his wonderful family in the months ahead ... I have every confidence that he will be the nominee for this position," Pence said.

Pence backed up his support of Sawyer with a $10,000 campaign contribution his own campaign committee made to Sawyer's earlier this month on November 4. In subsequent interviews, Sawyer spoke very positively about his transition into his new job and the work that lied ahead of him, including one interview that took place only days earlier as pointed out by radio talk show host Amos Brown. Sawyer was a no-show at the state GOP's fall dinner on Monday night featuring Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. All other statewide Republican officials were present and no explanation was offered for his absence. Shortly after the dinner, a Sawyer friend, radio talk show host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, posted on his blog a stunning report that Sawyer was expected to resign as state auditor the following day due to personal reasons. Without fanfare, Gov. Mike Pence released a statement the following morning saying that he had "accepted" the resignation of Sawyer effective December 15, 2013. Pence quoted from a letter from Sawyer dated November 25 that he had decided to resign "due to family and personal concerns." Pence assured the public that Sawyer's resignation had nothing to do with his fiduciary responsibilities or the execution of his duties as state auditor. Pence declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns. "I'm just simply not going to discuss private conversations with Mr. Sawyer concerning this matter," said Pence.

Reporters were unable to obtain a comment from Sawyer, who was not in his office on the day of the announcement. Employees of his small office told reporters they were surprised by the announcement, indicating they had received no advance notice their boss would be resigning from the office. Sawyer is married with three young children who he and his wife home school. There was general consensus that Sawyer had been pressured into submitting his resignation by the governor's office but little else is known about the circumstances of his abrupt and unexpected decision to give up the office to which had been appointed only three months earlier and to which he intended to seek re-election until this week. Pence has promised to pick his replacement soon. Many questioned just how good of a job Pence had performed in vetting Sawyer for the job months earlier. Did Gov. Pence's desire to have an African-American on the ticket next year cloud his judgment in picking Sawyer?

The circumstances of Sawyer's resignation reminds me of the abrupt departure of another former statewide elected official. In June 2003, Brian Bishop abruptly and unexpectedly announced his resignation as Clerk of Courts only six months after he started a new term to which he had been elected. Bishop, who had been considered a rising star in the state GOP, took a job in Washington never to be heard from again. A female whistle blower later confirmed to this blogger allegations that she had made against Bishop, which included an investigation by the Indiana State Police. According to the whistle blower, state GOP leaders met with Bishop quietly and urged him to step aside, which he agreed to do. Former Gov. Joe Kernan appointed David Lewis, a Democrat, to complete the unexpired term of Bishop after it remained vacant for a number of months. State lawmakers later passed legislation making the position an appointed position of the Supreme Court rather than a statewide elected office. Bishop's predecessor, Dwayne Brown, had his duties stripped of him by the Supreme Court and was eventually charged and convicted of ghost employment after employees of his office accused him of sexual harassment and performing campaign work on state time.

Will reporters allow Sawyer to quietly leave like Bishop? Or will they demand answers from Gov. Pence, if not Sawyer, as to the real reason he decided to resign from the statewide office to which he accepted an appointment only months earlier? The public deserves answers.

UPDATE: Sawyer's campaign chairman, Michael O'Brien tells WTHR that he did not learn of Sawyer's intention of resigning until Sunday night. When asked what would happen to the funds Sawyer has already raised for his election campaign next year, including a $10,000 contribution and nearly $41,000 raised to date after a fundraiser earlier this month, O'Brien indicated that the funds would likely be turned over to the state party to help the candidate ultimately chosen by the party to run for the office. "We didn't expect this so we're trying to figure out the details," said Michael O'Brien.  "It will be used to pay the limited expenses we had for our campaign. Whatever is left will go to the state [Republican] party to pay for electing a Republican auditor in 2014." O'Brien is a lobbyist and GOP county chairman in Sawyer's home county of Hendricks who had urged the governor to appoint him to the vacancy in August.


Anonymous said...

Definitely makes you wonder. Letter dated November 15, but announced on the 26th? Seems like Pence is trying to bury this in the slow news period before Thanksgiving when a lot of people aren't paying attention.

Gary R. Welsh said...

That was a misprint on my part. The letter was dated November 25.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that if Fred resigns rom something, the guy to ask about it is Fred, not the guy who received the letter? In other notes, this is another one of those silly elected offices where no one really understands what the position does, and where the guy elected kinda supervises folks who do all the work while waiting around to be asked to run for something else.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I would agree anon., except when the other guy is giving a big shove to force the other guy out. If Pence had a problem with Sawyer's continued service, he owes an explanation to the public. Once he appointed Sawyer to the office, he had no constitutional power to order him to step down. Why did he want him out so badly? Was Sawyer threatened if he didn't resign his constitutional office? The public has a right to know. We're not talking about a member of the governor's cabinet who serves at his pleasure.

Anonymous said...

I take the guy at his word. He has 3 small kids, and he probably doesn't want to have to run for statewide office while they're so young.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with this article, the revival of hard hitting investigative journalism has to start somewhere, let it be here.

This may shed light on these questions -- Was Dwayne booted out unfairly or was it as a result of poor vetting and decision making on the part of Mike Pence and his staff? Neither circumstance bodes well for Governor Pence. Or was Dwayne "released for cause" due to his conduct in office?

Inquiring minds WANT to know, and given Dwayne and Mike are BOTH public officials we are ENTITLED to know!

In the event it is the latter circumstance, Dwayne freely surrendered all his rights to privacy (regarding his conduct while executing duties in the appointed public position), the minute he swore the oath of office. It's more than a little suspicious there could be those who perceive an appearance of "hiding" behind the rice paper thin veil of leaving for personal and family reasons.

The Truth will only be uncovered and made pubic by an unbiased investigative journalist. All parties involved deserve that.

Anonymous said...

Word around Brownsburg is that he has a "love child" and that he was not paying support. If that is true, Pence looks foolish because when he introduced Sawyer, he said Sawyer was a good family man, a Christian, and a man of integrity. So much for all those things. He was the golden child who everybody helped along. He divided the Town of Brownsburg because of his "My way or the highway" attitude. He believed in his own greatness and never thought he'd get caught. Funny thing is that he used the Republican Party for gain just as the Republican Party used him. He was never even closely qualified for that job. What goes around comes around!!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Assuming the love child story is true, which many people have told me is true, is Pence saying that it's a disqualification to hold office? Obviously, he wouldn't be the first. Dan Burton somehow managed to get re-elected several times after it was disclosed that he fathered a biracial son to a State House secretary while he was in the state legislature to whom he secretly provided support payments over the years. It took the porn sleaze merchant Larry Flynt to get that story out into the mainstream media after Burton called Clinton a scumbag because of his adulterous relatonships. I've been told by numerous people that Andre Carson's birth father is a very prominent politician who has gone to great lengths to keep that fact a secret. Carson is biracial. Who is his father? Everyone on the inside knows the truth. They just won't talk out loud about it. In both cases, there are a number of State House reporters who long knew of these stories but refused to report on it. There are at least two other prominent persons in Indiana politics with whom I'm aware who were fathered by prominent persons who openly aided their bastard child's careers without fear their secret would be revealed by the media. Pence knows all of this. He's been involved in Indiana politics for years. I don't condone the immorality of any of these folks, but if people haven't figured out that most of their elected officials are total hypocrites, then they're going through life wearing rose-colored glasses, or in Stanley Kubrick's words, with "Eyes Wide Shut."

Anonymous said...

Don't disagree any of your thoughts Gary. Possible back child support on a child not disclosed to wife and Pence and also a possible bankruptcy. Clearly last one is more easily discoverable than the first especially if the first was a paternity. Surely Pence had a release and then vetted?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Without question, there were better candidates than Sawyer who were passed over by Pence. Perhaps Sawyer made misrepresentations by omission or otherwise to him during the vetting process. Nonetheless, Pence claimed he had not breached his fiduciary duty or failed to perform the duties of his office. If Pence learned of facts after he appointed him to cause him to have a change of heart about his choice and lose confidence in him, the honest thing to do would have been to make that view known publicly and simply not support him for election to the job next year. That alone may have led Sawyer to reconsider whether he wanted to continue to hold the office with which Pence had entrusted him. What I don't like is the secretive way he went about forcing him out of the office. If Pence believes there are certain standards that must be upheld to hold public office, then he should have no problem telling us what that standard entails and why he thinks it's important to maintain that standard.

Anonymous said...

Standard list of possibilities:
1) Substance abuse
2) Infidelity issues
3) Personal financial issues
4) Criminal issues
5) Someone's being blackmailed
6) Marriage breakup in near future
7) One or more of the above
8) None of the above

Anonymous said...

Who's to say he's not uncomfortable, signing off on DOD ghost accounting schemes like the CAFR (DC created to obscure black ops), where funds are moved & pledged to multiple sources? Request & review a copy of the state's CAFR, you'll see the problem.

Flogger said...

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll are usual Suspects in Political or Religious Scandals.

We are after all human. However, when our politicians and religious leaders turn sanctimonious and judgmental of others they should be held to the standard they set.

Anonymous said...

I have heard from a number of reliable sources...

"Sawyer got a mistress pregnant a few years ago and has never paid support. She got a paternity test the day after the gov announced Sawyers appt. The results came in last week and it's his kid and she is asking for back support....and says she will go to the news if he doesn't pay up."

Too much baggage too early, easier to select a candidate with fewer skeletons in their closet.

This conduct from an espoused Christian man, who was MARRIED at the time.

I'm still waiting for the tough, hard hitting, and unbiased investigative journalist to prove or disprove this accusation.