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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - More on "Indiana appointments raise ethical issues that Brian Bosma, Mike Pence may want to avoid"

Updating this ILB entry from Dec. 3rd, this is a selection from an editorial today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette [emphases added by ILB]:

Gov.-elect Mike Pence’s appointment of Jeff Espich understandably has unnerved some good-government advocates. But any concerns about revolving-door influence are tempered by the unusual nature of the appointment and the fact that the new administration needs solid state government experience.

In Espich, a 40-year veteran of the Indiana General Assembly and former House Ways and Means Committee chairman, the newly elected governor will have a senior adviser in the truest sense of the title. It says much about the Wells County Republican’s character that he accepted an appointment in the administration instead of waiting out a one-year ban from lobbying the legislature in a high-paid lobbying firm.

Yes, his position as an adviser on legislative affairs is uncomfortably close to the legislative director or legislative liaison position [ILB: but see below] addressed by the General Assembly’s ethics law. Statehouse observers who have watched as legislators switched sides to represent gambling, alcohol and other business interests are justified in any cynicism when it comes to the lucrative afterlife of an Indiana legislator.

But Espich’s role in the Pence administration appears advisory. Given his record, Espich can be counted on to offer brutally honest counsel to the new governor, who has never held a job in state government or come any closer to the General Assembly than managing the Indiana Policy Review.

It’s somewhat refreshing, in fact, to see Pence turn to a well-respected fiscal expert instead of an outsider determined to bring a business perspective to state government. The turmoil at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles when it was headed by retail executive Joel Silverman was one of the more benign effects of that approach; the failed privatization of welfare eligibility services and the ongoing ethics scandal at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission are some of the worst.

*Yesterday Pence's office announced:
Heather Neal has been named Pence’s Legislative Director. She will serve as the chief legislative liaison for the Pence Administration. Neal has served as chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Education where she directed operations of the agency, which includes 55 percent of the state’s annual budget and an additional $1 billion in federal funds. Neal also was Governor Daniels’ first appointee as the state’s public access counselor and served as chief of staff for Secretary of State Todd Rokita.
ILB: It is interesting to look back to some stories from eight years ago when Gov. Daniels emphasis was on appointing state government outsiders. Here is a quote from an Elkhart Truth editorial reproduced in this Dec. 9, 2004 ILB entry:
Besides impressive resumes, the eight share something else in common -- a shortage of experience with not only state government but public administration of any kind. Their willingness to leave lucrative careers or -- in Silverman's case -- retirement is admirable.

Daniels is counting on the fact that these new public servants will come into office unencumbered by biases and resistance to change of government bureaucracy. He's also counting on each of them bringing successful practices from the business world. * * *

While Silverman may bring to the BMV some good customer service ideas from his retail days, his greatest contribution may be in reshaping a culture focused too little on pleasing the customers -- Indiana motorists and vehicle owners. * * *

With Mitch Roob, Daniels has selected an individual who has enjoyed success with government reorganization. He helped rework Indianapolis city departments in the 1990s under then-Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and headed an agency that supervised the Marion County Health Department and Wishard Memorial Hospital. * * *

We're eager to hear about the merits of other new ideas Daniels' team has for the state, but the new administration should also be cautious about cleaning house too thoroughly. Like it or not, Daniels needs on his side the state bureaucracy he criticized in his campaign to make the changes he believes are necessary. Therefore, the governor-elect must also select competent managers with state government and public service experience -- Roob is a good start.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 6, 2012 12:28 PM
Posted to Indiana Government