A former top Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles official faces a $500 fine for violating state ethics laws when he helped negotiate a lucrative state contract with a company and then took a job with the firm, officials said Thursday.
Former BMV chief of staff Shawn Walters helped negotiate a contract with Express MVA in 2010 that provided the company with BMV workstations and allowed it to charge a "convenience fee" that effectively doubled the cost of services typically available only at state license branches, The Indianapolis Star reported. In 2013, he accepted a newly created position at the company.
The penalty is the result of a settlement agreement between Walters and Indiana Inspector General Cynthia Carrasco. The Indiana State Ethics Commission signed off on the agreement.
In the settlement, Walters acknowledged he violated a state ethics law requiring a one-year "cooling-off" period for employees who want to take a job with a company doing business with the state. The law is intended to prevent employees with the power to award or negotiate state contracts from doing favors for private companies that can reward them with high-paying jobs.
Express MVA revealed in August that Walters earned a base salary of $60,000 annually, with potential for significantly higher incentive pay if he brought in new business from other states.
Critics of the $500 fine say it is too small to discourage other state employees from using their jobs to advance their financial interests.
"It amounts to a slap on the wrist," Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, a government accountability group, told the newspaper. "Five hundred dollars really is not going to put fear into anybody. It's not a significant enough punishment to get anybody's attention or make them take these laws seriously."
Walters and his attorney did not attend the ethics commission meeting and did not return messages for comment.