INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former Indiana Department of Education official took a job with a company involved in a $573,000 agreement he helped broker to develop a web app that tracks school data and distributes news releases for state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz's office.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that David Galvin, Ritz's former communications director and IT manager, took a job with N2N Services in October 2015 — two months after a $435,000 payment was requested for AT&T and N2N Services, AT&T's software developer, in connection with the project. Galvin, who is now executive director of marketing and communications for Atlanta-based N2N Services, specifically requested the two companies be hired for the work.
Watchdogs say it's another example of Indiana's lacking ethics laws, which were exposed in recent years by high-profile cases involving former schools superintendent Tony Bennett, former Indiana Department of Transportation chief of staff Troy Woodruff who sold land to the agency, and state Rep. Eric Turner, who helped kill a nursing home construction ban that could have cost his family business millions.
By law, Indiana's state government workers must comply with a mandatory one-year waiting period before taking a job with companies with which they helped negotiate contracts and spending agreements. State employees can seek a formal advisory opinion from the state Inspector General, which clears them to take a job.
There is no record of Galvin seeking a formal advisory opinion. Instead, an email released by Ritz's office shows he sought informal guidance. An official in the inspector general's office advised Galvin that he could work for the company because N2N was a subcontractor for AT&T and did not directly contract with the state, but suggested he seek a formal opinion "because of his extensive interaction with N2N."
Galvin, who was paid $88,000 a year by the state, says he took the job to be closer to his significant other and claims he took a pay cut, though he declined to provide documentation.
"I don't understand the big deal," Galvin said of his new job. "I listened to the people who do know the law and followed their guidance."
In a statement, Ritz's office noted the informal advice Galvin received from the inspector general's office and emphasized that he "has no current relationship or interaction with the Department."
Galvin was a divisive figure during his tenure as Ritz's communications director and helped instigate an ethics investigation into Ritz's GOP predecessor Bennett after she defeated him in 2012. Ritz staffers reviewing computers used by Bennett's administration found that Bennett's staffers had performed political work while on the clock as state employees, which is prohibited. No criminal charges came of the investigation, though Bennett was fined $5,000.
When it came to the web app, Galvin requested the 2015 deal with AT&T and N2N because the companies offered marketing capabilities and a product that the state could not provide, documents obtained by AP show. Also, the documents show that education department officials signed off on the agreement, but Indiana's Department of Administration, which vets state contracts, says they did not approve the agreement.
The state Republican Party called for an ethics investigation of Ritz's office Friday as a result of the AP's findings.
"From day one her office has put politics and self-interest before the needs of children. We are calling for a full ethics investigation from the Inspector General on this matter," David Buskill, the executive director of the Indiana Republican party, said in a statement.
These types of arrangements are the "reason people are cynical about government," according to Paul Helmke, a public affairs professor at Indiana University.
"When you have someone — paid by taxpayers — who is pushing a contract to a private entity then they leave and take a job within a couple months, that's why we need strong ethics rules," said Helmke, who is also a former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne.
Follow Brian Slodysko on Twitter at @brianslodysko.