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Democrat calls for investigation of Bennett lists

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Democrats on Thursday called for a state investigation into allegations that former state Superintendent Tony Bennett kept campaign databases on state Department of Education computers, which could violate state law.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the allegations “should be taken seriously.”

“I think it should be investigated,” Lanane said.

He was reacting to a story written by The Associated Press that also said Bennett “ordered his staff to dissect a speech by his Democratic opponent for inaccuracies last fall.”

Bennett told the AP that he planned to use the lists to make thank you calls on his own time after last fall’s election and that he did not ask his staff to do campaign work. Democrat Superintendent Glenda Ritz defeated Bennett in that election.

Lanane said he’d like the state’s inspector general to look into the allegations. According to the AP, that office is already looking into previous accusations that Bennett made changes to the state’s A-F grading formula for schools to help one charter school he had been touting.

Controversy about those allegations led Bennett to resign from his job as the top educator in Florida.

“The inspector general not only has a duty to complete a thorough investigation into these matters, but he has a duty to do so quickly and transparently,” said Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody. “Hoosiers have a right to know what Tony Bennett and his staff were doing with public dollars – and whether anyone will be held accountable for clearly reckless, if not unethical or downright illegal, actions.”

Bennett has also denied wrongdoing in the A-F system. He says changes made to the formula were meant to improve the overall system and benefited dozens of schools, not just Christel House Academy in Indianapolis, which was founded by a Republican donor.

An independent report ordered by the General Assembly said last week that the changes Bennett made were “plausible,” although it also said the Department of Education had been unprepared to implement the changes to the A-F system.

On Thursday, Republicans spoke out to defend Bennett.

Cam Savage, who previously worked for the Republican, said Bennett “welcomes any opportunity to clear his good name from the biased, unfair and inaccurate attacks of a single reporter who is clearly working hand-in-hand with state Democratic officials and whose ‘reporting’ has already been publicly proven wrong.”

And Indiana Republican Party Chairman Tim Berry said the current state superintendent owes Bennett an apology. He cited a post on a conservative website in Florida that said Ritz was involved in turning records over to the AP for the story. She has not commented on the story.

“Superintendent Ritz can’t get away with not answering simple questions,” Berry said in a statement. “Hoosiers deserve to know what comes first in the Ritz Department of Education: Students, parents and teachers or settling political scores.”

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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