Indiana elected officials are allowed to use state-owned property for political purposes, state authorities decided Thursday, as long as they have drafted a formal policy permitting it.
The Times of Northwest Indiana reported on the decision after the state ethics commission approved an inspector general’s recommendation.
As part of an investigation, the inspector general concluded that a statewide-elected official “could not use state materials, funds, property, personnel, facilities, or equipment to engage in political activity unless there was a policy or regulation that expressly permitted him to do so.”
In other words, as the Times reported, if the official did draft a policy that expressly permitted the use of state property for political purposes, then it would be allowed.
The state ethics commission then approved the inspector general’s report Thursday, the Times reported, effectively making its conclusion state policy for seven officials.
The offices covered by the rule, according to the newspaper, are: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer and state superintendent.
The case that resulted in the conclusion involved former Indiana education commissioner Tony Bennett (pictured), who the inspector general concluded had used state software to track his political calendars, received political emails through his state email account and held political meetings at state facilities.
Bennett’s activity was prohibited because he signed an agreement that had explicitly forbidden it, according to the Times. But if he had not signed it, and instead authorized himself to engage in political activity using state property, it would have been allowed.
Instead, Bennett was fined $5,000 for violating the ethics policy that he signed.