Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tippecanoe County Judge Used Government Computer And E-Mail Account For Re-Election Campaign

The Lafayette Journal-Courier reports on a red-faced judge after colleagues questioned him about using his county-issued computer and e-mail account to send out a campaign letter for his re-election bid. Tippecanoe Superior Court Judge Gregory Donat told the Journal-Courier that he did not send out the campaign letter maliciously or intentionally using taxpayer resources. “I’m sorry. I did it, and I won’t do it again,” Donat said. “I didn’t think about that. I was clearly wrong about doing that. You sometimes get in a hurry.” Donat attributed his actions to a "mental lapse."

The Journal-Courier points out that Donat's "mental lapse" could constitute a crime, noting that it's a Class A misdemeanor for "a government employee [to] knowingly or intentionally use the property of the employee's government employer to ... [a]dvocate the election or defeat of a candidate." Donat's Republican primary opponent, Laura Zemen" told the newspaper that she was "disappointed" by Donat's action but did not intend to "make a big deal out of it. Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said she was waiting on direction from her counsel on whether to pursue a formal review of Judge Donat's action as the county's chief elections officer. Because a judge is considered a state employee and not a county employee, Coffey thought any criminal investigation would be referred to the Indiana State Police and not the county sheriff's department. 

UPDATE: The Journal-Courier is reporting that the matter has been referred to the Indiana State Police for investigation.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

This looks like another job for The Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Another Democrat engaged in impropriety....business as usual.

Anonymous said...

So whose email is the greater ethical lapse...this judge's, or Paul Ogden's? At least the latter's was not a crime...

Anonymous said...

Donat is a Republican...he is facing a primary challenge.

So the post should be, "Another Republican engaged in impropriety...business as usual."

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks, anon. 9:18. I meant to say Republican "primary" opponent.

Anonymous said...

Because a judge is considered a state employee and not a county employee, Coffey thought any criminal investigation would be referred to the Indiana State Police and not the county sheriff's department.
Still waiting and watching on this matter...Wondering how this will pan out...I know from experience...Waiting and watching...

Indy Rob said...

I am not sure that I would consider this a big deal (a crime) or not. To me, there is a difference between spending the majority of your work day (8 to 5) working on re-election activities, and to use a small part of that time for re-election activities, especially when the government employee continues to work after the end of that day.

I would fine or admonish the candidate but it should be in proportion to the impact of the mis-use.


It is much more of a crime when you are maintaining campaign lists and running a campaign each and every day from your government computer, the vast majority of campaign activities should take place on separate systems at separate times.

Anonymous said...

This can get nit-picky.

My question is what county postage and county staff resources (time) did he utilize during county time, for campaign purposes?

What this Judge did was a crime said...

Either technicalities matter or they don’t matter. Paul Ogden wrote an single, innocuous letter criticizing a terrible Judge and he was crucified for it. Either Judges are held to the same standards as the rest of the public or they aren’t. I am not a member of the Indiana bar and I will speak my mind on the subject of grossly inept Indiana Judges getting a pass on ethical lapses when the rest of us are often held to the strict letter of the law. Why is that so prevalent, and is it really a small matter. Any other State employee is subject to termination for misuse of his government computer.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anon. 10:05, The law prohibits using government computers and e-mail accounts for campaign purposes. There won't be any criminal prosecution. Tony Bennett's staff had a campaign database stored on government computer's in his office and had state employees using government computers and e-mail accounts to support his campaign-related activities, including fundraising. You can see what the response of the Marion Co. Prosecutor was to that offense.

Anna Friend said...

This wouldn't even be a story if it were not for the fact that Laura Zeman wasn't running for Donat's seat. Donat is a good man. The Tippecanoe County prosecutor won't even prosecute an LPD officer who admitted to leaving a voice mail message threatening to kill a citizen for receiving a hug from a woman at a Lafayette restaurant.

If Donat loses, here is what Tippecanoe County can expect more of:

http://lafayettecitizen.blogspot.com/2014/02/tippecanoe-county-voters-must-reject.html

Anonymous said...

I am republican but the proof is that Judge Donat is NOT tough on drug dealers. He would rather put an arrest warrant on someone who has never had a criminal past over not showing up to court for a bill, that in fact they appeared than to arrest and jail drug dealers. The robberies in Lafayette are mainly done by these drug addicts that need money for their fix. Truly sickening. I hope Laura Zeman takes his place. She is tough on real crime. Time for him to go!!