INDOT Chief of Staff Cleared of Ethical Violations, But Chided for Judgment
Indiana’s inspector general has cleared INDOT’s ex-chief of staff of wrongdoing in connection with the sale of land along the I-69 corridor. But he says the former official could have saved the agency a lot of trouble and embarrassment by following the recommendation of an internal ethics officer.
Inspector General David Thomas says in a 33-page report that prosecutors in Marion and Daviess Counties, the U-S Attorney’s office, and the Federal Highway Administration all agree with his conclusion that Troy Woodruff broke no laws. He notes the sale of three acres of land along the highway route was a forced sale through eminent domain.
But Thomas says while Woodruff reported the sale on his annual financial disclosure statement, he ignored the advice of INDOT’s ethics officer to file a separate disclosure with the State Ethics Commission, hoping to avoid drawing further attention to it. Thomas is recommending INDOT adopt a policy making eminent domain disclosure a requirement, not a recommendation, and that the legislature make that requirement a law when it reconvenes next year.
Thomas says Woodruff should have foreseen “negative reaction” from the public from actions that came “narrowly close” to crossing ethical lines. Woodruff resigned from the department last month after five years – his last day on the job was the same day Thomas completed his report. Thomas is recommending INDOT not conduct any contracting business with Woodruff nor rehire him for one year for not following the ethics officer’s advice. He says that decision had “dramatic consequences” for the agency’s image.
But Thomas says more than a dozen other allegations lodged with his office proved baseless, and says two people who filed the original complaints acknowledged they had no evidence otherwise. Thomas says Woodruff’s family members still own another 30 acres near the highway which the complaint charged had been sold to the state. And he says there was nothing improper or unusual about Woodruff’s sale of that land to relatives.
And while internal emails show some grousing within INDOT about Woodruff’s order to redesign a partially completed bridge, Thomas says those complaints don’t correspond with any criminal offense. He says allegations that Woodruff or his relatives profited from the change are false, and notes the Daviess County commissioners and then-INDOT Commissioner Michael Cline echoed Woodruff’s concerns about visibility under the original design.
The report did find one minor violation in the failure of Woodruff’s wife, who also worked at INDOT, to file a financial disclosure statement. But Thomas says Marion and Daviess County prosecutors agreed it would have been overkill to file charges against someone who wasn’t even the target of the investigation, for an offense that’s the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket.