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Ethics commission fines, bans attorney from state employment

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The Indiana State Ethics Commission has found a former general counsel and chief administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission violated the law when he participated in decisions involving his future employer, Duke, while still with the IURC.

The ethics commission released its findings in a report Thursday, outlining the charges against Scott Storms. The inspector general charged Storms with violating Indiana Code Section 4-2-6-9(a) when he participated as an ALJ in the Duke Edwardsport case while knowing he had a financial interest in the case because he was negotiating employment with Duke at that time. He was also charged with violating the law when he participated as an ALJ in the Duke Smart Grid case after he learned he would become an attorney at Duke. Duke had a financial interest in both the Edwardsport and Smart Grid cases.

Storms ruled on the Duke cases in July 2010, and he began working at Duke in late September 2010. He was fired in early November 2010. His salary at Duke was $42,000 more than what he earned with the IURC.

The ethics commission found he violated I.C. Section 4-2-6-9(a) by participating in the matters and by not notifying his appointing authority of a potential conflict of interest or seeking an advisory opinion from the commission after he began negotiations for the open position at Duke. Storms also failed to file a written description detailing the nature and circumstances of the matter and make full disclosure of any related financial interest in the matter.

The ethics commission imposed a $12,120 fine, which was three times the amount of benefit Storms obtained from the $4,040 salary increase he received during his employment at Duke. He must pay the fine in full to the commission within 60 days. He is also banned from future employment with the state.

Duke’s Indiana president, Mike Reed, a former executive director of IURC, was fired at the same time as Storms as a result of this matter. Gov. Mitch Daniels fired IURC Chairman David Lott Hardy in October 2010 for not having Storms step down from Duke cases after learning Storms applied for a job with the company. Reed sent numerous emails and communicated with Storms and Hardy regarding Storms’ prospective employment.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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