IBJNews

INDOT memo strips information in public tug-of-war

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

By one stroke this year, Indiana lawmakers and the new governor vastly improved the public's ability to find out how the show is run at the Statehouse, while in another, top managers at the Indiana Department of Transportation quietly clamped down on what's available.

Gov. Mike Pence and a bipartisan group of lawmakers reversed years of closed-mouth refusals from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to show how and where taxpayer money was spent on job-creation and economic development. Pence touted the measure at a May bill signing, saying it would "ensure public confidence in our economic development efforts."

But officials at INDOT went the opposite direction, telling public employees to stop putting their opinions in public documents, shortly after The Indianapolis Star used those documents to unearth accusations of favoritism on a project benefiting INDOT Chief of Staff Troy Woodruff's family. Woodruff directed INDOT employees to spend $770,000 re-making a connection to I-69 benefiting his family's farmland along the new highway.

A highway supervisor dubbed it the "Troy Woodruff Re-Do", according to The Star. But INDOT's new rules would bar statements like that.

"All information that is necessary for complete documentation of project construction should be reported factually without the addition of personal opinions, editorial comments, or criticism of individuals, companies or INDOT," officials wrote in a memo to state workers.

INDOT also ordered employees to stop replying to emails in chains, creating long strings of information that could potentially unearth more information via public records requests.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said the new policy would protect the state from lawsuits and civil claims that rely on statements made in public documents. "There's a lot more at stake there," he said. He added he did not know whether the new orders were drafted in response to the Star's Woodruff investigation.

Gerry Lanosga, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government, said he was "offended at the idea that officials are asking public employees to self-censor what they put in routine logs like the ones at issue here."

"Employees shouldn't feel pressure not to be forthcoming about their professional evaluations in such documents, but asking them to keep their personal opinions out will almost certainly cause them to hesitate in offering qualitative judgments regarding programs and projects that could be very valuable to the public," he said.

Lanosga compiled a 2012 report for the Center for Public Integrity giving Indiana an F for public access, detailing broad exemptions in the state law that allow public officials to withhold information. Lanosga, a former investigative reporter, pointed out that the public is often granted access to its governments in starts and stops. One measure, like the new IEDC rules, open the door to the public, while another, like INDOT's, closes it.

For years, IEDC would tout plans by companies to create new jobs in Indiana, but would not say exactly how many were created. Leaders under former Gov. Mitch Daniels refused to provide that information, with the admonition that showing how many jobs were created could spook other businesses looking at Indiana.

But Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, led the charge earlier this year to require IEDC deliver more information about how many jobs companies it wooed to the state actually created. Pence backed the measure and also created a new online portal, making it easier to review IEDC information.

The INDOT policy might be a step backward for public access, but the long push for IEDC transparency was a clear step forward.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • All Hail TW
    Voted for daylight savings time when he swore he wouldn't. Now this. Troy Woodruff is my hero.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

ADVERTISEMENT