Ethics ruling keeps Daniels clear for Purdue job

October 18, 2012

Gov. Mitch Daniels' selection as Purdue University's next president by a panel he appointed doesn't violate state ethics rules, Indiana's top ethics official says.

Inspector General David Thomas, who was also appointed by the Republican governor, ruled this week that Daniels did not violate conflict-of-interest rules by taking the job because state law requires the governor to oversee Indiana's seven public colleges, including Purdue, and appoint university trustees.

"The investigatory resolution of this issue is clear," Thomas wrote. "The (conflict of interest) rule is not violated if the action is required by that public official through another specific statutory duty."

Purdue's 10 trustees, all of whom were appointed or reappointed by Daniels, selected the governor in June to become the university's 12th president. He will take office in January once his second term as governor ends.

Thomas' ruling, reported by the Journal & Courier on Thursday, is the second informal opinion addressing Daniels' hire.

Daniels in August requested a ruling on whether the state's post-employment rules and restrictions on lobbying applied to him. That came after Thomas and Tim Grogg, the Indiana Department of Administration's executive director of executive branch lobbying, determined that Daniels would not be barred from lobbying the Legislature once he becomes Purdue president.

In the latest ruling, released Wednesday by the governor's office, Thomas said the governor was not subject to the required one-year "cooling off" period because he never negotiated a contract between the state and Purdue.

However, Daniels cannot represent or help Purdue in a matter that he personally participated in as governor, Thomas said. Those would include investigations, applications, business transactions, lawsuits, economic development projects or public works projects.

None of those issues were presented to Thomas for review.

If any arise, Thomas said, Daniels should seek an advisory opinion from the State Ethics Commission.

Thomas also found no support for a complaint filed by Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary. Brown had asked Thomas to look into whether Daniels wrongly used state property for personal reasons by instructing his staff to send an email on a state mailing list Sept. 4 stating that he wanted a $380,000 renovation of the Purdue president's office stopped.

Thomas said it would be hard to prove that Daniels and his staff weren't engaging in "official state business" by commenting on state university activities.

Thomas's opinions are not binding because only the full ethics commission can make a binding ruling.


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