The State Ethics Commission Thursday approved a settlement regarding former state superintendent Tony Bennett’s ethics violation of using state resources during his 2012 re-election campaign. Bennett agreed to pay a $5,000 fine as a consequence of the violation.
Inspector General David Thomas’ report dismissed the other accusation that Bennett altered the states A-F formula to raise the grade of Christel House Academy from a C to an A, to benefit the school’s founder, a financial supporter of Bennett’s political campaign.
Thomas writes in the report the reasoning for dismissing the A-F accusation:
First, no one has shared with us a specific rule violation.
Second, the separate, bi-partisan investigation requested by the Indiana Legislature and which interviewed more than 20 witnesses and examined volumous documentation, specifically found no special treatment on this issue. In fact, it specifically concluded “the accommodations made to Christel House Academy were consistently applied to at least 16 other schools which had analogous situations,” and “the two adjustments administered to determine Christel House Academy’s final grade were plausible and the treatment afforded to the school was consistently applied to other schools with similar circumstances.”
Third, we find it relevant that it appears that schools which were awarded higher adjusted grades received fewer funds as a result.
Bennett was not present at the hearing but his attorney Larry Mackey said Bennett is relieved the ordeal is behind him.
“So at the end of the day he is glad this is over, he’s glad that the IG report has made clear there is no fraud, no misdoing in regard to A-F, and he’s all about the business of serving students and teachers,” Mackey said.
During his 2012 re-election campaign against Glenda Ritz, Bennett kept databases of campaign donors on a government server, held campaign meetings at his office in the statehouse and used his government email to conduct campaign business.
Mackey and Thomas said the $5,000 fine is consistent with similar ethics infractions.