Indiana News

Pence's Legislative Director Leaving Staff

Pence's office says Heather Neal was not pushed out after implication in changing of A-F school grade formula

8/19/2013

Governor Pence's legislative director is leaving for the private sector, and the governor's office says she was not asked to leave due to her role in the changing of the state's A-F school grading formula last year.

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Heather Neal has taken a job as president of the public affairs practice of Limestone Strategies. The firm was co-founded by Cam Savage, like Neal a former aide to ex-State School Superintendent Tony Bennett.

Neal was the chief of staff for Bennett. She took the job in Pence's office after he was elected governor and Bennett lost his bid for re-election to Glenda Ritz in November 2012. Neal was among the members of Bennett's staff who had a vast email exchange last September when it became apparent that the Christel House charter school would receive a grade of C. In one of the early emails in the exchange that was obtained and released by the Associated Press last month, an email from Neal read, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."

When the grades were later released, Christel House received an A, and it was later learned the formula for compiling the grades was changed. Bennett defended the change, saying the formula was unfair to schools like who did not have complete high school classes - Christel House went up to 10th grade at the time. But Christel House is funded by Christel DeHaan, who had given money to Bennett. More importantly, Bennett had long touted Christel House to legislative leaders as one of the state's top schools as he sought to make adjustments to the A-F system.

Word of Neal's new job came a day after Pence was asked about Neal's job status following the swearing-in of new state auditor Dwayne Sawyer. "Heather Neal is a very valued member of our staff, and I have nothing to add about her status at this time," Pence said. When pressed, the governor essentially repeated himself. "Heather Neal played a critical role in the legislative successes that we had.... She served us with great distinction."

After the announcement from Savage, Pence's office released a statement. "Heather Neal played a pivotal role in developing and enacting policies in our Roadmap for Indiana, and her tireless efforts made a difference for families, small businesses and family farms across the Hoosier state." Pence's communications director, Christy Denault, said that Neal's departure was her decision and that she will continue to serve as legislative director until her resignation takes effect August 30th.

"Heather is a tremendous addition to our company,” said Savage in a press release. "Having worked in the highest levels of Indiana government for more than a decade, her credentials are unrivaled as a leader on just about every key issue from economic development to education to elections. She is an even more extraordinary person and we couldn't be more thrilled to welcome her to lead our new practice."

 @WIBC_RaySteele

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