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Bennett ethics hearing delayed

A May 8 hearing on ethics charges for former Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has been delayed until Aug. 14.

The Office of Inspector General sought the continuance of the hearing before the State Ethics Commission, saying both sides are in the middle of the discovery process.

IG David Thomas said his office recently turned over 100 pages of information to Bennett’s attorneys, and is now awaiting Bennett’s side to respond to its request.

Bennett did not object to the continuance.

Thomas filed charges in November against Bennett for essentially campaigning on state time and resources. Bennett lost his race to Democrat Glenda Ritz.

The allegation is that during 2012 he “improperly made use of state materials, funds, property, personnel, facilities, or equipment for a purpose other than for official state business.”

For instance, the complaint said Bennett used state computer systems, equipment and software to engage in political campaign or personal activity, including political campaign fundraising, responding to a political opponent’s assertions, scheduling campaign meetings and scheduling campaign telephone calls.

In an August email to several Indiana Department of Education staff members, Bennett included a video of his then-opponent Ritz.

“Below is a link to Glenda’s forum in Bloomington ... I would ask that people watch this and scrub it for every inaccuracy and utterance of stupidly that comes put of her mouth,” he directed his staff.

And the Associated Press reported that three fundraising lists and a donor call list tailored for Bennett were discovered on state computers after he left.

State law prohibits employees from conducting campaign work on state equipment or state time.

Bennett can be fined and banned from future employment with the state. The ethics commission can forward cases to police and prosecutors.

nkelly@jg.net

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