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IDEM could fire employee for ethics violation

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The state's Ethics Commission correctly concluded an Indiana Department of Environmental Management employee violated a provision of the ethics code when he bought gas with a state-issued credit card at a gas station he partly owned. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today the amount of restitution the commission ordered him to pay wasn't supported by the evidence, so additional findings are necessary.

In Subhen Ghosh v. Indiana State Ethics Commission and the Office of the Inspector General, No. 32A01-0812-CV-601, Subhen Ghosh appealed the trial court's decision he was collaterally estopped from seeking reinstatement of his employment and the monetary sanction imposed by the Ethics Commission. IDEM dismissed Ghosh after discovering the misuse of his credit card; the State Employee Appeals Commission affirmed his dismissal, which was also affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Ethics Commission investigated and sanctioned him to reimburse the department $456.96.

Ghosh appealed the Ethics Commission's decision, asking to be reinstated.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that Ghosh was collaterally estopped from asking for reinstatement because that issue had already been litigated during the Appeals Commission proceeding. The procedures outlined in Indiana Code Sections 4-15-2-34, -35, and -35.5 foreclose Ghosh's arguments that IDEM lacked authority to dismiss him for a violation of the Ethics Code and that the Appeals Commission lacked jurisdiction to review such a dismissal, wrote Judge Margret Robb.

Despite Ghosh's arguments, LTV Steel Co. v. Griffin, 730 N.E.2d 1251 (Ind. 2000), doesn't control the outcome in the instant case because the facts are substantially different and the case was decided prior to the amendments to the State Personnel Act, which required the Appeals Commission to review the propriety of a dismissal by the Ethics Commission for an ethics code violation, she wrote.

The Ethics Commission was able to sanction Ghosh based on I.C. 4-2-6-9(a). Ghosh argued the commission's interpretation was unreasonable because he didn't "participate in any decision" by using the credit card because participate implies more than one person is involved in the decision. Even though his argument of the meaning of participate is consistent in legal and general dictionaries, the appellate court rejected his argument.

"Because Ghosh unilaterally decided to use a state-issued credit card at a gas station in which he had a financial interest, he went well beyond the minimum of mere participation," she wrote. "Moreover, adopting Ghosh's interpretation would permit any single person to avoid violating the statute simply on the ground that the person acted alone."

The Court of Appeals found the monetary sanction to be unsupported by the evidence and remanded to the Ethics Commission to either make additional findings explaining how the sanction is consistent with I.C. 4-2-6-12(1) or to fashion a sanction that is consistent with the statute and supported by the evidence in the record.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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