Indiana secretary of state hires brother-in-law for top post

Keywords Hiring / Law / State Government
Diego Morales

New Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales has hired his brother-in-law for a top position paying a six-figure salary, in a move that has drawn criticism as crossing an ethical line.

Shawn Grady began working as the co-director of the office’s Auto Dealer Services Division on Feb. 6, Deputy Secretary of State Jerold Bonnet told The Indianapolis Star. Grady previously worked as a sales consultant at a car dealership in southern Indiana and is married to Morales’ sister.

While critics raised questions of nepotism in the hiring, state law doesn’t prohibit state employees from hiring brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law.

The hiring represents another controversy for Morales, a Republican who took office Jan. 1 after winning election despite twice being ousted from low-level jobs in that office and allegations that he possibly committed voter fraud while running for a congressional seat in 2018.

Bonnet said Grady was recommended for the job “as a person with more than 5 years’ experience in auto dealer operations and extensive management experience.”

The Auto Dealer Services Division has previously had a single director, but Grady was hired as its co-director with a $108,000 salary along with Kyle Bonick, an attorney who was previously the division’s deputy director, The Star reported.

Bonnet said the office determined the responsibilities of the role are best met by two directors “due to the diversity and complexity of evolving agency duties with respect to motor vehicle consumers, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, resellers, and salvagers.”

One is an attorney who will focus on registration, licensing, investigation and enforcement, Bonnet said. The other, he said, is “an individual with industry experience, focused on consumer issues, dealer training and compliance, administration of the Indiana Motor Vehicle Sales Advisory Board, and mediation of manufacturer-dealer disputes.”

Grady did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday from The Associated Press.

Even though the hiring doesn’t violate the state’s nepotism law, “when you give the appearance of impropriety, it could cause problems,” said Paul Helmke, an Indiana University civics professor and former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne.

Helmke suggested that the secretary of state’s office could have sought a formal opinion from the state ethics commission before hiring Grady.

“It might not be a technical violation but when you’re talking about taxpayer dollars being used to pay for somebody’s position, you want to make it clear that somebody’s not getting favorable treatment because of that relationship,” Helmke said.

Indiana Democratic Party chairman Mike Schmuhl criticized Morales for “hiring people for the personal gain of himself and his family.”

“This kind of nepotism erodes trust in government and compromises the ability of public officials to serve Hoosiers transparently and effectively,” Schmuhl said in a statement.

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15 thoughts on “Indiana secretary of state hires brother-in-law for top post

  1. I flew home via Detroit after Christmas. This charlatan ran up and took advantage of Delta’s policy of early boarding for active duty and retired military. As Hayek warned: Only the worst rise to the top.

  2. As long as the low-information Republican voters of Indiana* keep voting the ticket without scrutinizing candidates, this is what we will get. AGs, SoSs…and the beat goes on.

    *This is not to say that all Republican voters of Indiana are “low-information”. But all of them who voted for Curtis Hill, Todd Rokita (multiple times), Charlie White, and Diego Morales certainly qualify.

    1. It’s funny, in central Indiana, where there is still some local news, the vote went against this guy by a pretty good margin. Outside of the Indy metro area, it went strongly the other way. So yes, there was lack of information on the candidate, but is that entirely the voters fault? So please don’t so quick to insult uninformed voters.

      “sales consultant at a car dealership in southern Indiana” = car salesman?!?

      I learned a new word today “nepotistic”. Hitting your car salesman brother in law for a high level management position is nepotistic. It’s worse when you promote the assistant manager to be co-manger because you know you threw your brother in law in over his head.

    2. Dan M., I’m pretty sure the Internet reaches laptops and smart phones in Salem, Washington, Jasper, Peru, and every other small city in Indiana same as it does Indianapolis and Central Indiana. and reach everyone who wants to read them.

      Covering your eyes and ears and holding your nose to vote for these terrible officeholders is not an excuse.

    3. It is a voter’s responsibility to inform themselves. As pointed out, there are resources available to rural voters. Unfortunately, they by and large choose Faux News as their source of information. And before anyone jumps in to defend Faux News, please know that the network’s defense in the Dominion lawsuit is that it is not a real journalistic organization and you cannot believe what they say. Sadly, so many people do.

  3. We can all sleep better at night knowing the nepot hire brings a whopping five years of experience to his new job that pays more than $100,000 a year (not counting benefits).

    Seriously, though, if this is what makes Indiana “a state that works,” then we need to admit we’re a state of low expectations.

  4. “sales consultant at a car dealership in southern Indiana” = car salesman?!?

    I learned a new word today “nepotistic”. Hitting your car salesman brother in law for a high level management position is nepotistic. It’s worse when you promote the assistant manager to be co-manger because you know you threw your brother in law in over his head.

  5. This is what you get when a super majority political party loses any sense that it could be defeated. In the next election . They has no reason to screen their candidates for any sense of ethical morals .

  6. Of course this horribly unqualified, horrible person that never should have been elected does this. This is just the tip of the iceberg I’m sure. Congrats, Repubs for scraping the bottom of the barrel.