Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Joe Hogsett And Terry Curry Gave Tony Bennett Pass On Multiple Wire Fraud Violations

Before Inspector General David Thomas entered into a settlement agreement with former Education Supt. Tony Bennett this summer letting him off with a hand slap for using state employees and state resources for political purposes, he prepared another 95-page report in which his investigation concluded there were 100 instances in which Bennett or his staff violated federal wire fraud laws. For some reason, Thomas didn't bother to release that report at the time he entered into the state ethics settlement with Bennett, but State House reporter Tom LoBianco has now obtained a copy of the original report, which should have been posted on the IG's website for public inspection but wasn't.

. . . In a section labeled “Scheme to Defraud,” the inspector general laid out its case, saying Bennett “while serving as the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Indiana, devised a scheme or artifice to defraud the State of Indiana of money and property by using State of Indiana paid employees and property, for his own personal gain, as well as for his own political benefit to be re-elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.”  
The violations fell into five categories: political campaign fundraising, responding to political opponent’s assertions, calendar political activity meetings, political campaign call appointments and general political campaign activity.  
Through reviews of emails and calendar entries and more than 50 interviews with top Republicans and former staffers, investigator Charles Coffin determined that Bennett falsified mileage logs to cover fundraising trips and the use of two state workers as campaign drivers. The report also details 20 days on which Bennett used the SUV to go to local Republican fundraisers coded as “business” in his handwritten vehicle logs, as well as instances when trips to events billed as education-related also had calendar notes about political donors being present.  
Bennett also used tax dollars to send a staffer to attend the 2012 Republican Party convention on his behalf . . .
According to LoBianco, the report analogized Bennett's case to the recent federal prosecution of former Lake Co. Surveyor George Van Til, who pleaded guilty last December to six federal wire fraud counts related to the use of county employees and resources for his political campaigns. Bennett could have also been prosecuted for official misconduct and ghost employment under state law just like one of his predecessors, Harold Negley, who former Marion Co. Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith prosecuted on nearly identical charges. The question now that must be answered is why former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett and Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry, both Democrats, passed on prosecuting Bennett. What was the quid pro quo? Inquiring minds want to know. The answer should be quite obvious in both instances. Both of them should be holding their heads in shame for breaching their respective oaths of office.

I would be remiss if I didn't remind people that former Secretary of State Charlie White reported his predecessor, Todd Rokita, to the state's Inspector General and the Marion Co. Prosecutor, for similar violations after he and his staff uncovered campaign-related documents on the state's computers in his office when he took office. The spouse of one of the employees cited in the Inspector General's report on Bennett's office was at the center of those violations in the Secretary of State's office. Both the Inspector General and the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office refused to investigate White's allegations. The State House media has refused to report on White's allegations because they don't like him and want him destroyed.

Here was my reaction last July when the IG's settlement agreement with Bennett was announced:
Clearly, the admissions made by Bennett involve violations of criminal statutes, including official misconduct and ghost employment under state law. Former Education Supt. Harold Negley was forced to resign and prosecuted for exactly those same offenses back in 1985 by then-Marion Co. Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith. The state ethics commission can recommend forwarding the findings to the prosecutor for further investigation, but nothing is stopping Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry from acting on his own. It remains unclear why he sat back and allowed the Inspector General's investigation to play out before convening a grand jury to conduct his own independent investigation. Remarkably, Bennett's lawyers at Barnes & Thornburg claim they have an agreement with Curry not to prosecute him, which is a complete outrage if true. Curry claimed he planned to get tough on the prosecution of public corruption cases when he ran for office four years ago, but he declines to take any action in the most brazen cases set in front of him.


Anonymous said...

I suspect Gary there are lots of stories like this over the 8 years of Ballard and Mitch and now Pence in office. Time for transparency and grand jury's all over this town. Do not sleep Gary until you expose all the cancerous skum.

Anonymous said...

The people need to March enough masse to Terry Curry's and the U.S. Attorney's office and demand that Bennett be prosecuted! Also investigations into FSSA, and DCS need to be done now! Especially into the death of Tanja Brawley!

Anonymous said...

Going after the bigger fish to fry...Seems to be the pattern here.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Democrat, but this isn't just a Republican issue! It's deeper. The reason Hogsett and Curry won't touch this or other cases is because they know prosecutorial power is a bitch-of-a-ghost that will haunt just as many Democrats as it will Republicans. So, sad. The political elite will do anything to protect themselves. This idea of a divide between the two political parties is a rouse. Each does everything it can to protect their personal and collective holds on power.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:15 hits gold that this is not a "Republican" issue but a deeper one which is part and parcel of the Democrats we are inflicted with... both focus on self-interest and self-protection above all else. Period.

While Indy's least-respected mayor in a half century cannot depart fast enough, any incoming Democrats will be no better. The inherent power structure will remain intact. It's like exchanging Lenin for Stalin... look at the recent CC Council Democrats jockeying a la Adamson et al... disgusting that they will do anything to retain (or attempt to establish) their tiny kingdoms of power and privilege.

Flogger said...

I have long been a convert to the idea that when the rubber hits the road both Political Parties for the most part Merged into the Republicrat Party. They serve the Crony-Capitalists, who infect the System. There will be at times some in the Political Apparatus who will be sacrificed. Those who speak out run the risk of being turned on by their "Political Party."

The equally disgusting part of the situation is virtual silence by our Mega-Media here in the Indianapolis Area concerning Political Corruption.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 11:15 hits the nail on the head.