The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

August 11, 2013

Inner workings of Indiana government rarely disclosed

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Bennett, in particular, has maintained that nothing wrong happened behind the scenes. Instead, he has said the news coverage of his grade-changing scandal "cheapened" all his other efforts at education overhaul.

On July 31, Bennett sent a resignation note to former Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Patricia Levesque, executive director of Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education — three people who shaped his efforts.

"Regardless of how untrue the portrayal is about our work in Indiana, it cheapened what we tried to do," Bennett wrote in the email, recently obtained by Florida press. "Yes, while I can stand up until my dying day and defend what we did as right, it did cheapen everything we did and everything I wanted."

He called the 48 hours of intense media scrutiny since the story first broke "a living hell." His incredible frustration at all of the attention is similar to the frustration of Indiana school leaders who could not get answers from his team on how their school grades were calculated.

A few changes have made it easier to discover how elected officials are earning their public salaries.

Gov. Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, teamed up during the legislative session to make it easier to see how the IEDC is spending tax dollars.

But an effort by House Democrats to require the state say how much it spends to purchase private land for transportation projects went nowhere, despite media reports that the Indiana Department of Transportation's chief of staff's family made three times their land's assessed value in sales to the state.

Not all work is hidden away. The state posts the budget, all legislation, committee hearings, and many other documents online. And the last decade has seen improved access to documents like state contracts and campaign donations through online search tools. But Indiana's public officials don't spend much time trumpeting their work when it looks bad.

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