Ethics panel to consider possible job changes

The State Ethics Commission this week will review ethics questions from a pair of their officials who may leave their jobs and consider a conflict-of-interest query from Gov. Mike Pence's new lobbyist.

State Board of Accounts Examiner Bruce Hartman has asked for clearance to start a consulting firm that would work with local governments after he retires at the end of the year. And Department of Insurance Deputy Commissioner Logan Harrison is considering job offers from an insurance lobbying association and CNO Group, which owns Conseco Life Insurance, Bankers Life and Casualty Company and other insurance companies.

Indiana maintains a one-year "cooling-off" period for any state worker or official either leaving to work in the private sector on issues they directly worked on while in the government or leaving to lobby lawmakers or the administration. But the bipartisan panel, which will meet Thursday, routinely grants waivers of the one-year wait.

Harrison has spent much of his time with the state coordinating planning for the federal health care overhaul. Although Indiana is one of 36 states allowing the federal government to run the insurance exchange, the state has bulked up its technology infrastructure and temporary workforce to handle an expected increase in Medicaid enrollees.

Upon receiving the first job inquiry late last month, Harrison set up an ethics "screen," having the DOI's ethics officer talk with the insurance institute and CNO Group on his behalf.

The panel is also planning to review a separate request from Pence's new legislative director. Sean Keefer wrote the panel to ask whether his wife's job at IU Health, where she now works in marketing on changes made by the federal health care law, would be a conflict of interest for him.

Keefer replaces former Pence lobbyist Heather Neal, who left the governor's office in the wake of former School Superintendent Tony Bennett's grade-changing scandal. Neal had been Bennett's chief of staff.

The ethics commission had already found no conflict of interest existed when Keefer last sought its approval — he previously worked as Indiana's Commissioner of Labor before joining the governor's office. But Keefer noted in his request that wife's job duties had changed recently.

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