Friday, July 13, 2012

Once Again, Crime Pays

Criminal activity is a very rewarding endeavor for many in Indiana, particularly when it comes to public corruption. Two state fair employees who admitted they engaged in ghost employment and used state resources to conduct a private business received nothing but a slap on the hand and a small fine for violating state ethics law. One of the offenders is even being allowed to retire from state government with full pension benefits. Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry, who promised to investigate and prosecute public corruption as a candidate, will do nothing. Curry's office tells WRTV's Kara Kenney, who has been tracking the case closely, that the two individuals' criminal acts were excused since they entered into a civil settlement with the state's Inspector General, who ignored a state law requiring him to refer such matters to the prosecutor until Kenney exposed the favorable deal he cut with the two state employees, David Hummel and Chris Clyne. Common Cause's Julia Vaughn tells Kenney what we've been telling you for years.

"I think it's disturbing, because this is theft," said Julia Vaughn of the nonpartisan government watchdog group, Common Cause Indiana. "For most of us, if we stole from our employer, the police would be called and charges would follow."
Lara Beck, spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, told RTV6 Friday the employees had been disciplined and sanctioned through the State's ethics process, and they have in good faith negotiated a resolution to the violations.
"Our office didn't feel that it was necessary to investigate or pursue criminal charges," wrote Beck in an email to RTV6.
Clyne was suspended without pay for a week, while supervisor Hummel was suspended for two weeks without pay and fined $1,500.
"I think it sends the message that state government is operating under different rules than most of us employees (are) under," said Vaughn. "I think citizens are going to be disturbed to hear that. The punishment amounted to just about a slap on the wrist."  . . .  
"It just rubs salt in the wounds of taxpayers," said Vaughn. "You're sending a message to other state employees that there's not much to fear if you get caught violating ethics rules." . . .

"Ghost employment is not a frivolous violation, that's a pretty serious charge," said Vaughn. "I think it would behoove the Indiana General Assembly to take a look at the statute and beef up the penalties."
Kenney's report notes that Hummel was named in an investigate report performed by Witt Associates into the Indiana State Fair stage collapse that killed seven and injured dozens of others for "a lack of oversight and responsibility when dealing with contractors." Kenney says Hummel will receive a pension benefit worth more than $3,500 a month when he retires on July 31. Because Curry's office refuses to prosecute the men for crimes they admit they committed, Hummel is entitled to his full pension benefits. State Fair spokesman Andy Klotz had nothing but good things to say to Kenney about Hummel's 40 years' service as a state employee.

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