A state lawmaker wants the Indiana Inspector General to officially clarify what Gov. Mitch Daniels can and cannot do as he transitions into his new role as president of Purdue University.
Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, filed a formal ethics complaint Wednesday saying Daniels violated state rules by using a governor’s office email list of statewide media to send a press release responding to concerns about the cost of renovations to his new office on-campus in West Lafayette.
“This is partisan nonsense,” Daniels spokesperson Jane Jankowski responded in a statement, adding, “as governor, he could very legitimately and properly comment about university expenditures at Purdue or elsewhere.”
But Brown says he filed the complaint to elicit a ruling from the state’s Ethics Commission that would set boundaries for Daniels — including an official edict on whether Daniels can lobby state officials on Purdue’s behalf.
“We have never had this unique situation where a sitting governor is, in another two or three months, going to transition into the role as president [of a public university]. That’s why the Ethics Committee needs to make a clear and concise decision as to whether there are appropriate or inappropriate positions being taken by Mitch Daniels,” Brown told StateImpact Wednesday.
Daniels signed an executive order creating Indiana’s “revolving door” or “cooling off” rule in 2005. The regulation prevents any former member of the Indiana General Assembly from being “registered as a lobbyist… or employed as a legislative liaison” for one full year after his term ends.
But in August, Indiana Inspector General David Thomas issued an “informal advisory opinion” concurring with the state’s director of executive branch lobbying: State ethics rules would not prevent Daniels from lobbying for Purdue.
Indiana had one of the weakest ethics situations in the country when we first came to office and one of the first things — on the first day — I did was, by executive order, created a “revolving door” rule and an Inspector General to enforce that, as well as whistleblower protections and other things. We later fought that through into law. You can imagine I’m extremely conscious of staying way within all such boundaries. But no, it appears there is absolutely no issue. I keep sending back questions just to make triple certain, but it appears that there’s just no issue at all.
But Brown contends Daniels was out-of-bounds in sending an e-mail blast to statewide press responding to Purdue’s $380,000 office renovations. As Brown told StateImpact on Wednesday, it wasn’t clear he was using state resources for his role as governor:
There is still this cloud over [Daniels] — still a sitting governor, and yet taking on some of the duties of president of Purdue. The most glaring example is the remodeling of the President’s office at Purdue and he steps in to halt that project. Well, was he doing that in his role as governor or as incoming president of Purdue? And there still seems to be a mixing of duties and responsibilities there. So I think that’s an example of things that really need to be clarified.
Brown personally feels Daniels should not be allowed to lobby on Purdue’s behalf. Brown notes Daniels appointed eight of the ten Purdue trustees who ultimately hired him.
But Daniels spokesperson Jane Jankowski says the Inspector General already addressed Brown’s concerns in his August letter, and “now resources will have to be wasted disposing of this silly charge.”