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Indiana highway commissioner picked for Purdue job

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The head of the Indiana Department of Transportation for the past three years is looking to join former Gov. Mitch Daniels at Purdue University.

Daniels, who became Purdue's president in January, appointed Michael Cline as the highway department's commissioner in 2010, and he's continued in that job this year under Gov. Mike Pence.

Cline has been offered the position of vice president for physical facilities pending approval from the state ethics commission, Purdue legal counsel Steve Schultz told the Journal & Courier.

Cline would replace Robert McMains, who is leaving Purdue to become chief facilities officer at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

"Mike is seeking guidance from the ethics commission so that he can be free and clear to work for Purdue," said Schultz, who said the university would not comment further on Cline's appointment until after the ethics commission ruling.

State law prohibits a state employee from taking part in a decision involving a prospective future employer.

Cline said in a letter to the ethics panel that he was contacted by a Purdue official May 7 requesting the highway agency's help regarding a 6-acre parcel of land that Purdue has used for 50 years, The Journal Gazette reported. Cline said he immediately gave the request on to a deputy commissioner and hasn't been involved with it.

Cline told the commission that he learned of the Purdue position May 2 and applied online May 8. He interviewed about a week later and was offered the job May 31.

Cline would be the second person appointed by Daniels to lead a state agency to then follow him to high-level jobs at Purdue.

Robert Wynkoop left his position as Department of Administration commissioner this spring to become managing director of Purdue's business and finance office.

Cline, who has a civil engineering degree from Purdue, was a deputy commissioner of the highway agency for three years before being named commissioner. He's paid nearly $138,000 a year to lead the department of more than 3,600 employees and an annual construction and operating budget of more than $1 billion, according to state records.

At Purdue, he would oversee a staff of nearly 1,300 workers who manage the university's buildings and grounds, facilities construction, maintenance, transportation and other areas. McMains, the outgoing vice president, had an annual salary of nearly $240,000 for 2012.

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