A Democratic lawmaker filed a complaint Wednesday seeking an ethics investigation into whether Gov. Mitch Daniels overstepped his role when his office sent out a statement about renovations to Purdue University's president's office — the post Daniels will assume in January.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said in his request to state Inspector General David Thomas that "Daniels clearly misused state property for personal reasons" when he asked his staff to send out a statement last week to respond to stories about $380,000 in renovations being done on the Purdue president's office.
Brown contends that Daniels, a Republican, violated state ethics rules when a state government e-mail list was used to distribute the statement in which Daniels said he had asked Purdue to halt those renovations.
He said Wednesday afternoon that Daniels' statement raised the question of whether the governor was acting in his role of governor or his future role as Purdue president — a question he said could come up again in Daniels' four remaining months as governor.
"That's the cloudiness there, this uncertainty as to which hat he's wearing at any given time. And all I'm asking is that the ethics committee clear that up for all Hoosiers," Brown said.
Daniels spokeswoman Jane Jankowski called Brown's request for an ethics investigation "partisan nonsense" and said the governor acted properly when he issued the statement in response to news stories about the Purdue renovations.
"Governor Daniels set the record straight after what could have been misleading headlines about him. But, as governor, he could very legitimately and properly comment about university expenditures at Purdue or elsewhere," Jankowski said in a statement.
After Daniels office released its statement last week, Purdue spokesman Chris Sigurdson said acting school president Tim Sands "honored" the governor's request to halt further renovation work on the office.
In his request for an ethics investigation into Daniels' actions, Brown also asked Inspector General David Thomas to reconsider an opinion issued in August clearing the governor to lobby state lawmakers on Purdue's behalf as soon as he takes over in January as the university's president.
Thomas, a Daniels appointee, decided that a one-year "cooling off" period required by the State Ethics Code would not apply to Daniels.
Brown said he disagrees with that and believes that the same ethics rule that applies to him as a state legislator also should apply to Indiana's governor.
"Why would the governor — any governor, not just this governor — be treated any differently than any legislator? There's got to be a year's hiatus for me as a legislator before I can lobby. Why would that not apply to the governor?" he asked.
Jankowski said Thomas already has addressed that issue.
"Now resources will have to be wasted disposing of this silly charge," she said in her statement.
Brown's request asks Thomas' office for a response by Sept. 25, including whether he will file a formal ethics complaint with the State Ethics Commission seeking a hearing on those matters.
A daily log maintained by the state Inspector General's office shows that the office had received Brown's complaint against the governor's office.
But Thomas said Wednesday his office cannot comment on requests for ethics investigations "until we have a chance to look at things."