Indiana State Auditor Dwayne Sawyer unexpectedly resigns

Sawyer at his swearing-in ceremony in August.
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State auditor Dwayne Sawyer has submitted his resignation – an unexpected announcement that comes just weeks after the governor made a major contribution to Sawyer's election campaign.

Governor Mike Pence announced Tuesday morning he had accepted Sawyer's resignation letter, a surprising development that comes just three months after Sawyer was sworn into office.

"He resigned for personal and family reasons and I respect his decision," Pence told Eyewitness News.  Asked for more details, the governor offered little additional information. 

"His decision to resign had nothing to do with his fiduciary responsibility or his service in office," Pence said. "Let me be clear, I'm simply not going to comment on private conversations with Mr. Sawyer concerning his resignation …. I respect his reasons, his priorities, and I respect his privacy."

The former Brownsburg Town Council president took the oath of office in August, becoming the first African-American Republican to hold an elective statewide office in Indiana. He filled a vacancy left by longtime auditor Tim Berry, who the governor picked earlier this year to serve as Indiana Republican Party chairman.

Both Berry and the governor were grooming the charismatic appointee to win a full-term as auditor next fall.

"He's going to do a great job over the next 18 months, and in that time he's going to command the respect of tax payers across the state to give him a full four-year term as the next state auditor," Berry said at Sawyer's swearing-in ceremony in August.

The governor was banking on that to happen.

13 Investigates has learned the governor's Mike Pence For Indiana campaign committee recently donated $10,000 to the auditor's Sawyer For Indiana campaign committee. The huge donation came just three weeks ago on November 4 -- another sign the governor was blind-sided by this week's resignation. 

Timothy Phelps, treasurer for Sawyer's campaign committee, told WTHR he does not know if the money will be returned.

"I'm afraid I can't comment on that right now," Phelps said. "I can look into it but there's nothing I can say about that."

A spokesman for the Mike Pence For Indiana committee told Eyewitness News he cannot comment on the donation either.

Sawyer's resignation is effective December 15.  The governor says he will "begin evaluating quickly" to find candidates and to name a replacement for Sawyer.

The state auditor is responsible for accounting for state funds, tax distributions to local governments and schools, and overseeing payment of state invoices and state employees.

Sawyer was not in the office or at home today to answer questions from Eyewitness News.

Employees at the auditor's office say they had no idea the resignation was coming. They got the news – like everyone else – when the governor released a written statement Tuesday morning.