Bruce Walkup’s resignation from the Ivy Tech board of trustees shouldn’t be the last word on the community college system’s latest display of political hijinks. In addition to the sexist jokes, nude photos and inappropriate partisan remarks he emailed to college officials, Walkup’s correspondence indicated special favors were granted and the fix was in for a high-level job created for a state official.
It’s a disservice to Ivy Tech students, educators and administrators across Indiana to allow the old-boy network to persist in the college’s upper echelons.
Walkup’s case is an egregious example. The Indianapolis Star reported last week that as chairman of the Ivy Tech board, the former IndyCar driver sent objectionable emails to college officials and prominent figures, including the Ivy Tech president, the former chief of staff for Gov. Mitch Daniels and Daniels’ sister, Deborah J. Daniels. More troubling, however, was the chummy correspondence between Walkup and Rob Carter, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources until he left that post for a new $120,000 position as head of statewide security for Ivy Tech.
In September 2013, email records show that Carter set up a hunting trip for himself and Walkup, violating the DNR’s own qualifying lottery procedures. In December, Walkup sent an email to his hunting buddy concerning internal security issues at Ivy Tech, explaining to Carter that they were examples of the problems you will be dealing with – apparently in a top-level job not yet announced to the public.
The DNR director sent Walkup advice on campus security in February – still weeks before Ivy Tech advertised for the new executive position of statewide security and safety. The state ethics commission gave Carter the go-ahead for the job in April; he was hired May 31.
Ivy Tech is no stranger to politically connected hires. Its administrative ranks over the years have included some of the most powerful legislators from both sides of the political aisle, including former House Speaker Patrick Bauer and former Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton. Former Fort Wayne legislator Matt Bell was hired to run Ivy Tech Corporate College at a salary of $250,000 a year. When he resigned, Tim Harris, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, was named to replace him.
Chris Ruhl, former state budget director, was hired as chief financial officer and Tina Bennett, wife of former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, held an $85,000 a year job at Ivy Tech before her husband’s election defeat. Carol D’Amico, a former Ivy Tech administrator and Daniels administration insider, collected $191,000 in a settlement after she was passed over for the president’s post in 2007 by a board controlled by Democratic appointees.
Interestingly, Walkup, a Mitch Daniels appointee, objected to hiring former automotive industry executive Tom Snyder as college president. Why Snyder didn’t call out Walkup’s abhorrent behavior as a trustee speaks to a deeply embedded culture of cronyism and political gamesmanship at Ivy Tech – one that transcends administrations.
An investigation of Carter’s hiring should not be assigned to the inspector general’s office. Aside from the fact that inquiries conducted by the office reek of politics, Inspector General David Thomas and Carter served together as prosecutor and sheriff, respectively, in Clay County. Hoosiers deserve an objective look at the questionable ethics surrounding Carter’s new job.