When Ideology Trumps Competence

The Star reports that Indiana will lose in excess of sixty million dollars in tobacco settlement money, because the state neglected to enforce provisions of the original settlement.

Who is responsible for enforcing the terms of a legal settlement to which a state is party?

While all affected agencies have an obligation to comply with laws and other legal obligations that affect them, those in charge of those agencies necessarily rely upon their lawyers to inform and instruct them. In this case, it is the office of Attorney General. The original settlement was negotiated when Steve Carter was AG, and–unless there is a lot more to this story– the responsibility for monitoring compliance would continue to rest with the office of Attorney General and his staff.

That means that the current AG, Greg Zoeller, is responsible for ensuring compliance with this and other settlements, contracts and agreements to which the state is party. He can discharge that responsibility through subordinates, but–as Harry Truman used to say–the buck stops with him.

Having an office charged with ensuring compliance with prior agreements and settlements is particularly important in government, where agency personnel turn over frequently. (When I was Corporation Counsel for Indianapolis, a roughly analogous position, my office had similar responsibilities for municipal compliance.)

Judging from his eager pursuit of hot-button national issues, Zoeller has ample time and resources at his disposal. He was “lead counsel” for other AGs in the recent Windsor case on same-sex marriage, and he has participated in other “culture war” cases which affected Indiana tangentially, if at all. In addition to these entirely voluntary activities, he has spent time pursuing appeals and cases which his office was highly unlikely to win. (Just a couple of weeks ago, he brought a suit against the Affordable Care Act–aka “Obamacare”–a suit widely derided by local attorneys who have described the theory advanced by Zoeller as “fanciful” and worse.)

So–Zoeller evidently has plenty of time and tax money to volunteer in cases implicating his religious and ideological beliefs. But somehow, he hasn’t found the time or resources to ensure that Indiana was in compliance with its legal obligations under the tobacco settlement.

He didn’t have time to ensure that the state wouldn’t lose sixty million dollars.

Too busy trying to keep those gay people from marrying…..