Friday, June 13, 2008

Northwest Indiana Times: Pence Worked Other Side Of E.C. Corruption Case

The Northwest Indiana Times' Patrick Guinane fills in voters in Da Region on what they would have learned reading Indiana blogs earlier this week about Democratic Attorney General candidate Linda Pence's role on the other side of the East Chicago corruption case being pursued by Attorney General Steve Carter's office:

When Democrat Linda Pence announced her candidacy for state attorney general last week, she said she would need to undertake an extensive review before committing to continuing the civil racketeering case against former East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick.

Pence, an Indianapolis attorney, didn't mention that she already is familiar with the other side of the corruption case. Federal court records show Pence represented Rieth-Riley, a paving company that paid $625,000 to settle claims it helped city officials conspire to divert more than $24 million in public money to a 1999 sidewalks-for-votes scheme.

"What I was trying to convey (last week) is, in this particular civil case, I'm not the attorney general yet," Pence, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, said Thursday. "I'm not privy to the evidence in that case. I wouldn't be allowed to see it. If that evidence is there and there is corruption, I will go after that, and I will continue that case."

Pence criticized Steve Carter's handling of the East Chicago case when she launched her campaign last week. In particular, she complained about his use of an outside counsel who formerly worked in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago on the case. Pence is now singing a little different tune. Guinane writes:

Pence said she would be willing to entrust the East Chicago case to subordinates or outside counsel if her review identified a potential conflict of interest.

Although Rieth-Riley admitted no wrongdoing in its 2006 settlement, the state had accused the company of playing a central role in a scheme to help East Chicago officials legitimize the paving bonanza that preceded Pastrick's 1999 re-election. The original civil lawsuit said the company signed off on a phony contract after other contractors already had helped pour free driveways, patios and sidewalks for city voters.

In 2005, Pence filed a countersuit in the case, contending that Rieth-Riley's contract with the city contained a clause protecting the company from liability if any part of the pact was deemed "contrary to the law." A year later the company forged a settlement that included a pledge to cooperate with investigators."

Of the $1.3 million recovered in the RICO case, Rieth-Riley paid a significant settlement of $625,000, which is the largest to date and represents twice the amount paid to outside counsel," Carter spokeswoman Staci Schneider said Thursday.

The newspaper also ran an editorial today rebuking Pence for her failure to disclose her role in the case. Tough start for a candidate who described herself as the "best-qualified" person for the job. Big hat tip to Hoosier Pundit.

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