Beyond Bennett, Democrats demand investigation of more state scandals

2013-08-08T18:00:00Z 2013-08-08T20:34:06Z Beyond Bennett, Democrats demand investigation of more state scandalsDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
August 08, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Top Democrats in the Indiana General Assembly are using the Tony Bennett school grade-changing scandal to demand a broader investigation of the state's Republican-controlled executive branch.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, and Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, penned a letter Thursday to Indiana Inspector General David Thomas asking that he look into five additional controversies, along with the Bennett issue.

They include the Bureau of Motor Vehicles overcharging Hoosiers for driver's licenses, potential conflicts of interest in Interstate 69 contracting, the improper disclosure of client data by the Family and Social Services Administration, possible grant mismanagement by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce department and excessive technology spending at Bennett's Department of Education.

Bennett, a Republican, is under investigation for improperly boosting the grade of a charter school sponsored by one of his top fundraisers, before his 2012 electoral defeat. He resigned as Florida's schools chief earlier this month. It resulted in changes in the grades of other charter schools as well.

"Taken as a whole, we believe the circumstances surrounding each of these cases demonstrate the need for a fundamental review of the duties of the inspector general's office and the code of ethics presently in place for executive branch officials," Pelath and Lanane write.

A late afternoon telephone message left with the inspector general seeking a response to the lawmakers' letter was not returned.

Thomas was appointed inspector general by Republican Gov. Mike Pence in January after previously serving in that position under former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who created the office in 2005.

The inspector general is tasked with preventing and investigating fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and misconduct in the executive branch, which includes nearly all state agencies.

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