In a story published by Washington DC-based Politico, it is revealed in a leaked copy of the official Ethics Commission settlement that former Superintendent Tony Bennett is found to have violated state ethics laws.
The Ethics Commission will consider the proposed settlement tomorrow at its 10am meeting.
The leaked settlement is said to have found Bennett used state resources to conduct political activity. For that violation, Bennett has agreed to pay a mere $5,000 fine.
According to Politico, the report:
“faults Bennett for receiving political emails related to his re-election campaign at his state address. He also used his official government email calendar to track his campaign events. And his education staff met with his campaign staff in his statehouse office — with his knowledge — to coordinate his appearances, the report concludes.”
The settlement reportedly clears Bennett of wrongdoing in the grade-changing scandal which compelled him to resign as Florida Education Commissioner.
The school involved had initially received a grade of C. However, Bennett directed his staff to change the school’s letter grade to an A. Furthering the controversy was the fact that the school’s operator is a prominent Republican donor who had made significant contributions to Bennett’s campaign.
If Politico’s reporting is correct, it’s deeply disappointing that the taxpayer’s trust can be bought for merely $5,000. If calculated, the time and resources wasted by Bennett’s staff on his re-election campaign would likely be at least several times that amount.
The fact that Tony Bennett could walk away with such a minor financial penalty makes the continued political attacks on Superintendent Ritz by the Governor and his appointed State Board of Education all the more insulting to ordinary Hoosiers. Worse, the small fine serves as a miniscule deterrent to future public officials when tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars pass hands to conduct campaign activities.
To further highlight today’s travesty, in 2013 the Indiana General Assembly made it a Class D Felony for government employees (including public school teachers) to even communicate about political advocacy using government property, let alone to conduct official campaign business using public property as Bennett has been found to have done.