Former Superintendent Bennett denies wrongdoing


Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is defending himself against an ethics complaint. The inspector general claims Bennett put state workers and computers to work on his last campaign.

While Bennett ran for re-election, Indiana's inspector general claims Bennett raised money and ran part of his campaign with government workers and equipment.

The ethics complaint alleges computer servers and software people and other resources paid for by Indiana taxpayers tracked donors, contributions, campaign meetings and events.

"If they are true, I think they are serious at the very least. What they show is a disregard for ethical principles," said Sheila Suess Kennedy.

Before becoming a professor of law and public policy, Kennedy spent decades in politics and government. Assigning government employees and lawn mowers to personal yard work, she insists would be similar to what Bennett is accused of.

"You don't use computers that belong to the taxpayer and keep files for your personal political use," she added.

Bennett insists he made every effort to follow the rules.

"I understand no conclusions have been made in this matter," he said in a prepared statement, "and I look forward to working with the Ethics Commission and the Inspector General's office to demonstrate proper adherence to state rules and guidelines."

Bennett has been in trouble before. After losing the election, the former superintendent was accused of manipulating the school grading system to benefit charter school sponsored by a campaign contributor. An investigation cleared him of any wrong doing.

Bennett doesn't back away from a fight. He kept large portraits of his heroes, Teddy Roosevelt and General George Patton, on his office walls. If found guilty by the State Ethics Commission, Bennett could be forced to repay the state plus a fine, bar him from future state jobs, or from working as a lobbyist.

A hearing is scheduled for January 9.