Local News / November 14, 2013

Inspector General Says Bennett Did Political Work On State Computer

Lesley Weidenbener - The StatehouseFile.com
Inspector General Says Bennett Did Political Work On State Computer

The state inspector general has filed a complaint with the Indiana Ethics Commission accusing former Superintendent Tony Bennett of breaking state rules by using government resources for political purposes.

The complaint says Bennett – a Republican who lost his seat a year ago to Democrat Glenda Ritz – “improperly made use of state materials, funds, property, personnel facilities, or equipment for a purpose other than for official state business” in 2012.

That includes using his computer to engage in political campaigning and campaign fundraising, according to the complaint. It said he also responded to a political opponent’s assertions, scheduled campaign meetings and telephone calls, and took part in other political or personal activities.

That would violate the Indiana Code of Ethics, which is part of the state’s administrative code. It could also violate an Indiana law that prohibits state employees from doing political work on state time but Inspector General David Thomas on Wednesday only addressed the issues as a violation of the ethics code.

Bennett said in a statement Thursday that “throughout my time in public service I made every effort to be cognizant of and to follow state rules and guidelines for elected officials.”

“I understand no conclusions have been made in this matter and I look forward to working with the Ethics Commission and the Inspector General’s office to demonstrate proper adherence to state rules and guidelines,” Bennett said.

The complaint comes about two months after The Associated Press reported that Bennett kept campaign databases on Department of Education servers. The AP also reported that Bennett directed his staff to do work to discredit his opponent during last fall’s campaign.

Thomas presented the complaint to the Indiana Ethics Commission at a meeting Thursday. The commission found that probable caused exists to move forward with the investigation and set the public hearing for Jan. 9.

Bennett has been a source of controversy since he left office last January. The AP also reported that emails found on Department of Education servers showed Bennett had sought to make changes in the A-F grading formula for schools that helped a charter school he had lauded. Those revelations led to his resignation as the schools chief in Florida.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.