Inspector General: Woodruff Didn’t Break Laws
August 4, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Four years of investigations surrounding Interstate 69 land deals came to an end Friday when the Indiana inspector general disclosed that state, local and federal officials would not be pressing charges against highway official Troy Woodruff.
“No crimes were committed and the codes of ethics were not violated,” said David Thomas, the state’s ethics watchdog.
But Thomas also said the controversy and the investigation is no surprise given Woodruff’s actions.
“Here’s the thing, and I guess it’s another takeaway, when you engage in conduct that goes right up to that line and then you dance away from the line and say it wasn’t violated, that’s ok. But this is what happens.”
Gov. Mike Pence ordered the ethics investigation early last year after an initial inspection of a land sale involving Woodruff – the Indiana Department of Transportation chief of staff – in 2010 found no wrongdoing.
Woodruff sold 3 acres of land to INDOT for construction of I-69, which raised questions about whether he had a conflict of interest in the deal.
Thomas said Woodruff could have avoided the allegations had he gone in front of the ethics commission publicly and disclosed his activities and intentions. He said Woodruff should have followed the example of the department’s previous commissioner, Michael Cline, who disclosed information about a similar deal even though Cline believed there was no conflict of interest.
“It’s not easy,” Thomas said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”
The inspector general’s report recommended that the state’s eminent domain law be amended to include a provision requiring a state agency and a state employee to file a written disclosure with the State Ethics Commission when the state agency is seizing property from that state employee.
Woodruff has been the subject of scrutiny over the past several years – most recently related to his negotiations for a job with RQAW, an engineering firm.
The Indianapolis Star found that two weeks after Woodruff’s job negotiation with RQAW began, INDOT awarded the company with a project worth $175,000 to $350,000, even though the company did not receive the best score from the staff. Woodruff – usually a member of the selection committee – did not attend that meeting.
But, the Star investigation found that Woodruff had personally signed at least three other contracts with RQAW – worth $562,000. And the selection committee awarded the company a contract for a roadwork job in Jasper County – for $294,300 – even though Lawson-Fisher Associates received the highest score from department staff.
The ethics commission previously gave Woodruff permission to continue negotiations with RQAW, but some members expressed concern about conflicts of interest that could pop up if he takes the job.
Woodruff announced this week he would be leaving the agency, but did not say when he would go.
“I have always lived my life with no regret, but in leaving this agency I do have one and that is the fact I could no longer stay around waiting on a 2nd Internal Affairs Investigation of myself that started in October of 2012 finally come to an end,” Woodruff said in a statement. “Even as the media accused me of so many things, what they were actually implying is that (INDOT) is corrupt.”
Democrats complained Friday about the investigation and Woodruff.
“Instances like this are why Democrats continue to champion a more open government and more balance in the Statehouse,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said. “I hope the Republican-controlled legislature will take action and work to rectify the culture of corruption within their own party.”
Thomas will be leaving the inspector general’s position after December to be a senior prosecutor for the state.