Because David Lott Hardy, former chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, broke no laws, a trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in dismissing felony official misconduct charges against him, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday.
“Because our Supreme Court has interpreted the official misconduct statute to require a charge of official misconduct to rest upon criminal behavior that is related to the performance of official duties, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the State’s charges against Hardy,” Judge Rudy R. Pyle III wrote for the panel, citing State v. Dugan, 793 N.E.2d 1034 (Ind. 2003). “We need not address any of the State’s or Hardy’s remaining arguments.”
The state appealed Marion Superior Judge William Nelson’s dismissal of four class D felony official misconduct counts against Hardy in State of Indiana v. David Lott Hardy, 49A02-1309-CR-756.
The state claimed on appeal that the official misconduct statute did not require a predicate criminal offense.
The charges against Hardy were based on ethical and administrative violations alleged in his involvement in the permitting process for Duke Energy’s coal-gasification plant in Edwardsport. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels fired Hardy after accusations arose that he lobbied Duke officials on behalf of Scott Storms, who had been an administrative law judge hearing Duke cases at the IURC while also trying to land a job with the utility.
Hardy’s case also involved variations of the official misconduct statutes. Prior to July 1, 2011, the code defined the offense as an act a public servant was “forbidden by law” to perform. The statute that took effect after July 1, 2011, I.C. 35-44.1-1-1 rewrote the code to require an underlying crime, and that revised statute was applied retroactively to Hardy.
Under either version, though, the court held, “Dugan unequivocally established that a charge of official conduct must be based on a criminal offense.”
It’s unclear whether the attorney general’s office will appeal.
"The Attorney General's Office represents the prosecution on appeal and sought to have the criminal charges reinstated in pursuit of justice, but respects the Court's ruling,” spokesman Bryan Corbin said. “The State is reviewing the Court's opinion carefully as we weigh the decision of whether to seek transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court."