Efforts by top officials of the Indiana Office of the Attorney General to place under protective order communications between them and Attorney General Curtis Hill about the sexual misconduct allegations against Hill have been defeated with the denial of their motion to quash and motion for protective order.
Aaron Negangard and Mary Beth Bonaventura, who serve as Hill’s chief deputy and chief of staff, respectively, asked hearing officer and former Justice Myra Selby to partially quash a subpoena duces tecum requiring them to turn over their communications with Hill related to the sexual misconduct allegations against him and the related attorney disciplinary action. Selby denied that request Friday, as well as a request to place their responses to other subpoenaed communications under a protective order.
Negangard and Bonaventura, along with general counsel Joan Blackwell, were asked to produce four categories of documents:
- Communications with Hill about the March 2018 sine die party, where he is alleged to have inappropriately touched four women;
- Communications with Hill about the disciplinary action stemming from the sine die party;
- Communications with Hill’s disciplinary lawyers — Donald Lundberg, Jim Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer — relating to the sine die party, the sexual misconduct allegations and/or the disciplinary action, and;
- Copies of communications with third parties about the sine die party, the sexual misconduct allegations and/or the disciplinary action
Negangard and Bonaventura moved to quash the first two categories of requests, arguing in a September filing that their communications with Hill about the sine die event and the subsequent allegations and disciplinary action were protected under attorney-client privilege. Hill discussed the allegations with his senior staffers, and they claimed those conversations were protected by Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6.
“Here, Hill treated his communications with his top legal advisors as communications that were confidential as he was soliciting legal advice and opinions from them,” the motion to quash reads, referencing a declaration submitted by the attorney general. “Hill discussed the matters within the scope of the Non-Party Requests (for discovery) with his legal advisors. Those communications and consultations were with persons who were attorneys and whose professional roles were to provide advice and counsel to Hill.”
But in an amended response to the motion to quash, the commission said Negangard and Bonaventura do not and cannot represent the AG in his personal capacity.
“In fact, it would be a Level 6 Felony under the ghost employment statute for Respondent to assign employees of the Office of Attorney General duties that are not related to the operation of the governmental entity,” the commission wrote, citing to Indiana Code § 35-44.1-1-3. “Given the personal nature of the allegations of Respondent’s conduct, it is highly unlikely that anyone could have conceived of Bonaventura and Negangard as representing Respondent in an attorney-client relationship until such time as it became known that the victims of Respondent’s behavior intended to sue the State and Respondent in his capacity as Indiana Attorney General.”
The accusers — state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and current and former legislative staffers Niki DaSilva, Samantha Lozano and Gabrielle McLemore — did sue the state and Hill in his official capacity in a pending federal suit, DaSilva, et al. v. Indiana, et al., 1:19-cv-02453. In that case, Hill is being represented in his official capacity by the OAG and in his personal capacity by attorneys with Eichhorn & Eichhorn LLP.
Also at issue in Negangard and Bonaventura’s filing was a motion for a protective order as to the third and fourth categories of documents they were asked to produce. According to their motion, Blackwell complied with the subpoena under a protective order, and Negangard and Bonaventura wished to do the same as to the two latter categories of documents.
Law student and OAG employee Garrett Bascom was also part of the motion for protective order.
“The information sought in the requests is from a state agency with a very specific goal that is related to a specific individual,” the motion reads. “The information that the Commission is gathering from these lawyers is sensitive and personal in many respects. The information should be used by the Commission in the confines of this case and not released or easily available to third parties that may have great interest in this information.”
But while the commission was willing to redact personal cellphone numbers and email addresses, it said the subpoena recipients have not met their burden under Indiana Trial Rule 26(C) for a protective order.
“A disciplinary matter regarding the criminal misconduct of a statewide elected official is a matter of public concern,” the commission wrote in its response. “The Subpoena Recipients are all government employees and their communications with the Respondent, his lawyers or others regarding the events of the sine die party are not matters that are sensitive, personal and private, but are matters that bear public scrutiny.
“While the Commission has no plan or intention to release the documents to third parties unilaterally,” the response continues, “the Commission should not be made an instrument of secrecy for its own sake.”
Selby did not provide any explanation in her denial of the OAG employees’ motion, writing only that “Motion to Quash Portion of Non-Party Discovery Request and for Protective Order is hereby DENIED.”
The former justice has previously denied a motion by the Indiana Inspector General — who was part of the criminal and ethical investigation into Hill — to quash a subpoena for witness statements collected during her investigation.
The motions filed by Negangard, Bonaventura and Bascom were submitted by Geoffrey Giorgi and Izabela Bebekoski, attorneys with the Crown Point firm of Giorgi & Bebekoski LLC. Blackwell was represented by her husband, Thomas Blackwell of Blackwell, Burke & Ramsey P.C. in Indianapolis.
The four plaintiffs in the federal case are represented by Hannah Kaufman Joseph, Kimberly Jeselskis and William J. Brinkerhoff of Jeselskis Brinkerhoff and Joseph LLC in Indianapolis. The three attorneys all previously practiced at Katz Korin Cunningham.
Hill’s disciplinary hearing will begin Oct. 21 in the Indiana Supreme Court conference room. The hearing must conclude by Oct. 25.
The disciplinary case is In The Matter of Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156.
IL editor Dave Stafford contributed to this report.