INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana has a public corruption problem and Attorney General Greg Zoeller is taking steps to address it.
When a government official is caught stealing there is usually a big splash with an arrest and criminal charges. What you don’t often hear about is the civil court proceedings that follow in the effort to recover the stolen money.
Zoeller has pursued 250 cases in the last five years.
“These 250, it’s not that they couldn’t find the receipts, it’s that we found that the money went to somebody’s pocket,” he said.
The numbers are sometimes large, hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen in the biggest cases. And when you look at what’s recovered it is often a fraction of that amount and frequently zero.
Along with a new Public Integrity Coalition, Zoeller wants a crackdown. He’s calling for whistleblower protection, new requirements for bonds or insurance policies that would cover losses and new ways to fill vacancies that could lead to private citizens serving on an interim basis.
The people who represent local officials are supportive.
“I know that our members feel betrayed when one of their counterparts in another county steal money and I can’t imagine how the taxpayers in that county feel,” said David Bottorf of the Indiana Association of Counties.
“If the attention is on things that are going badly, we can’t focus on the good stuff that we’re supposed to be doing,” said Matt Greller of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
Because when you add up the numbers from those 250 cases you get $8 million that was misappropriated and that’s not all.
“There’s money out there that has been gone missing that we didn’t get,” said State Examiner Paul Joyce.