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Former employee's lawsuit claims Indiana treasurer illegally awarded contracts to donors and allies

The complaint alleges Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and her staff have illegally steered more than $6 million in payments to campaign donors.
Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
In this photo taken on Nov. 6, 2018, Republican Kelly Mitchell speaks during an election night party, Tuesday, in Indianapolis. A whistleblower lawsuit alleges that Indiana's state treasurer violated state law in handing out contracts that paid more than $6 million to firms linked to her political supporters.

INDIANAPOLIS — A whistleblower lawsuit claims Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell has been illegally awarding contracts to her political donors and allies.

The complaint alleges Mitchell and her staff have illegally steered more than $6 million in payments to campaign donors. The suit filed in Marion County Superior Court claims the contracts were issued between 2015 and 2020.

The complaint point to Indiana state law that requires all state contracts to be approved by the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration, the Director of the State Budget Agency and the Attorney General.

Jim Holden was the chief deputy under former Treasurer Richard Mourdock and was manager of Mourdock's unsuccessful 2012 Republican campaign for U.S. Senate. Holder previously had a lawsuit against Mitchell for wrongly firing him from the three-year, $300,000 contract he received from Mourdock.

Holden says his firing was political retaliation by Mitchell on behalf of the Republican establishment. Holden settled that suit in 2017 for $92,500.

His new whistleblower suit claims the information about the state contracts is the result of what he learned through his wrongful termination suit and public records requests.

In an excerpt from a 2016 deposition, provided by the law firm representing Holden, Mitchell discusses a contract with Ice Miller, LLC and admits it did not receive approval from all the agencies. Holden's complaint alleges he expected Mitchell to correct the issue after it was brought to her attention. 

The contracts listed in the complaint as being made without proper approval include Ice Miller, LLC., Old National Bancorp, BMO Harris Bank N.A., Fifth Third Bank Indiana, JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A., PNC Bank N.A., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Huntington National Bank and Public Trust Advisors LLC.

The contracts listed by Holdern's attorney includes the following between 2015 and 2020:

  • Ice Miller (Lobbying Contract) – $168,377 paid between 2015-2019
  • Old National Bank – $131,941 paid between 2018-2019
  • BMO Harris Bank – Banking Services – $334,150 paid between 2017-2019
  • Fifth Third Bank – Banking Services – $228,704 paid between 2017-2019
  • JP Morgan Chase Bank – Banking Services – $535,061 paid between 2014-2020
  • PNC Bank – $1,096,104 paid between 2018-2019
  • Bank of New York Mellon – $271,555 paid between 2017-2019
  • Wells Fargo – $885,816 paid between 2015-2019
  • Huntington Bank – $771,777 paid between 2015-2019
  • Public Trust Advisors – $2,141,476 paid between 2018-2019

The suit claims Mitchell's campaign chairman and key fundraiser is a partner and lobbyist at Ice Miller, LLC.

“The fact that Treasurer Mitchell has spent the last six years in office handing out illegal contracts to her political supporters should be troubling to every taxpayer in the State,” said Indianapolis attorney Chris Wolcott, who represents Holden in the case. “State law is very clear that these contracts are void and this money must be repaid immediately. We plan to move quickly to recover these funds for the State.”

13News reached out to Treasurer Mitchell and her office. A spokesperson responded to say that they are not commenting on the lawsuit at this point and that they generally do not comment on pending litigation.

Ice Miller responded to 13News with a statement that the firm does not comment on pending litigation.

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