Remember that old song by Carly Simon, “You’re so vain”? I bet Ted Cruz thinks this blog is about him…but it isn’t, because really, what could I say that would be any more critical and dismissive than what you’re already thinking?
No, this is about Troy Woodruff, who was the subject of another actual news story in yesterday’s Star. (I’m getting kind of tingly…this is the second time in as many weeks that the Star has done actual “watchdog” reporting. Could it be a trend??)
A former powerful state highway official, who was slammed last year by Indiana’s top ethics cop for repeatedly going “right up to the line,” appears to have exploited another ethics loophole.
Last July, members of the Indiana Ethics Commission told Troy Woodruff they would not grant him approval to quit his state job and became vice president of an Indianapolis engineering and architectural firm — because it would run afoul of state law.
The reason: As chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Transportation, Woodruff had recently signed several contracts that sent at least $500,000 in taxpayer money to the firm, RQAW.
Indiana’s ethics laws generally require former state employees to take a year off before working for companies with which they directly did state business.
The one-year cooling-off period is intended to prevent companies from dangling lucrative private jobs in front of state officials in exchange for regulatory favors or fat contracts.
This rule is what we might call a “no brainer.” It’s meant to keep public servants (that phrase is beginning to sound quaint) from throwing business to a firm in exchange for a cushy job. Quid pro quo.
So what did Woodruff do? Once again (he’s been caught violating ethical standards before), he followed the letter of the law while pissing on its spirit: he set himself up as an independent contractor, and entered into a contractual relationship with the firm, RQAW. In other words, he still got paid, but not as an “employee.” See–all nice and legal.
Woodruff may be the most blatant practitioner of legal brinkmanship, but he’s hardly alone. As is widely acknowledged, Indiana’s statehouse is rife with conflicts of interest and self-interested wheeling/dealing. Sanity would suggest that we are long past time for a housecleaning and an ethics bill with real teeth.
On the other hand, in a country where anyone seriously entertains the possibility of Ted Cruz as President, sanity may be too much to expect.