News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 25, 2013

EDITORIAL: A ‘scandal’ hits close to home

Ivy Tech board member’s crass emails create waves


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The latest scandal involving state government carries a distinct flavor of west-central Indiana.

In case you missed it, Bruce Walkup has resigned from his position as a member of Ivy Tech’s board of trustees after a story in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star exposed off-color, crass and vulgar emails he sent repeatedly to Ivy Tech administrators and state officials.

The emails, obtained by the Star through a public records request, also indicated that Walkup may have received preferential treatment on a duck hunting request at the Goose Pond recreation area in Greene County from Rob Carter, who until recently was the director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The story also disclosed email exchanges between Carter and Walkup in which Walkup stated that Carter would be the next security director for Ivy Tech, even though that position would not come open for several months. Carter was eventually chosen for the job.

In addition to Walkup resigning his board post (after Gov. Mike Pence on Monday suggested strongly that he was considering his options in dealing with the matter), the governor also asked Inspector General David Thomas to investigate any potential ethics breaches concerning the hunting trip and Carter’s hiring.

So what’s the west-central Indiana connection?

Walkup is best known statewide as a former IndyCar driver, but is also a longtime Sullivan businessman and resident who has served on numerous public boards through the years, including the Sullivan City Council, the Indiana State Fair Board and the Ivy Tech board of trustees. He is retired from a post as an executive with a local banking institution.

Carter, in addition to serving for several years as director of the DNR, is a former Clay County sheriff.

And Thomas, before being appointed the state’ s Inspector General, was Clay County prosecutor.

Given Walkup’s email behavior, Gov. Pence was right to react swiftly in condemning the conduct and indicating official action against Walkup was at least under review. What’s more, Walkup’s decision to resign from the board after serving for 13 years was the only appropriate action he could take.

We also agree with the governor’s decision to order an ethics investigation. But there is one more step to be considered. Carter and Thomas, both Republicans, served at the same time in Clay County as sheriff and prosecutor.

We do not suggest the men’s Clay County affiliations would taint the process. But to ensure the ethics investigation itself does not carry an appearance of conflict, we suggest that Thomas not be involved in the probe.