Ethics inquiry clears INDOT's Woodruff

Indiana Inspector General David Thomas said Friday that after four years of investigations, the Indiana State Ethics Commission decided not to press charges against Troy Woodruff. Photo by Paige Clark, TheStatehouseFile.com.

By Paige Clark

Four years of investigations

surrounding Interstate 69 land deals came to an end Friday when the Indiana

inspector generals 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.

Paige Clark is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a

news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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