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Editorial: Legislative leaders seemed OK to sweep Hill scandal under rug

July 13, 2018

Attorney General Curtis Hill stands accused of deplorable behavior, including groping four women. Fortunately, an investigation by the Office of the Indiana Inspector General is seeking to get to the bottom of what happened in the early-morning hours of March 15, when Hill joined lawmakers and legislative staff at A.J.’s Bar to celebrate the General Assembly’s adjournment.

Unfortunately, Hill isn’t the only Indiana elected official whose judgment appears to have been sorely lacking. Legislative leaders—all of whom are male—seemed all too willing to let Hill off the hook, perhaps without even speaking to him.

Let’s consider the timeline. Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon said in a July 9 op-ed that ran in Indiana newspapers that she was groped by Hill at the party and that she decided to report it to House leadership after learning from a legislative staffer that the same thing had happened to other women that morning.

To the credit of legislative leaders, they acted swiftly. Reardon reported the alleged conduct May 14, and by the next day Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long had decided to investigate. By May 17, lawmakers or legislative staff had interviewed five legislative employees.

But that’s where the laudable conduct ends. A confidential report from Taft Stettinius & Hollister—which was hired to assist the House and Senate in the investigation—focuses largely on whether Hill’s alleged conduct creates legal liability for the Legislature, as the employer of the women who alleged groping.

And the report, written by partner Blake Burgan, sows serious doubt about the thoroughness of the investigation. It says that “all witnesses were interviewed and gave detailed statements.” Yet, just one paragraph later, Burgan writes, “We recommend that the allegations be brought to his attention”—meaning no one had told Hill he was being investigated or sought to hear his side.

The report suggested talking to Hill and stressing to him that “such conduct is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.”

In an interview with WTHR-TV Channel 13, Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, was incredulous.

“This looks really unprofessional. For example, I have never heard of an investigation in which the accused is not interviewed,” she said.

It’s important to note that this entire episode might have stayed under wraps were it not for the fact that Burgan’s report was leaked to The Indianapolis Star.

Back to the timeline. On July 2, The Star broke the story of the allegations against Hill, complete with a link to the Burgan report.

Three days later, Bosma and Long issued a joint statement calling for Hill to resign. “We believe that the women … are telling the truth,” the statement said.

By then, both lawmakers had known about the allegations for three weeks. All that changed in the interim was public scrutiny. If they believed the women, what took so long?•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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