Lawmaker Calls For More Transparency, Documentation
6:58 AM, Feb 10, 2010
A state lawmaker from Muncie is calling for more transparency within Gov. Mitch Daniels' Spot Bonus program aimed at rewarding state workers.6News' Kara Kenney began examining the program after the station received an anonymous e-mail complaint about awards given to 75 Indiana Department of Transportation workers in recognition of their work during a tanker explosion on Interstate 465 in October.New numbers obtained by 6News show that thousands more government workers received bonuses since the original investigation aired in early December.In the past two months, government agencies handed out more than $600,000 in spot bonuses -- $546,541 in December 2009 and $98,900 in January 2010 -- with most of the recipients working for the Department of Correction and Department of Transportation.A review of previous bonus records revealed that the Department of Correction gave out more bonuses than any other agency, including to employees at the top of the pay scale.Guidelines for the program indicate that awards can range from $100 to $1,000 and are intended to recognize between 10 and 20 percent of employees over the course of the year for outstanding performance.But Rep. Dennis Tyler said the criteria are vague, and that he wants to see more documentation about why agencies are handing out bonuses at the time of statewide cuts."That is a lot of money. We're cutting (the Department of Child Services), Medicaid, schools, and then why are we operating this way?" he said. "There's no standardization on how it's being done. To me, at the end of the day, that's the issue."Tyler analyzed thousands of bonuses and said he found very few lower-level employees being recognized for outstanding work.Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, said that while bonuses can anger taxpayers, during a recession, cash is the most meaningful reward."$600,000 in the current state situation is a lot of money, but I'm sure the government has looked at it like, 'I have to keep people, I need these people," he said. "And they'll never go away. Then the government is fatter, they'll be higher."Neither the Department of Correction or the Department of Transportation were available for available for comment on Wednesday.