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Inspector General questions Indiana corrections supervisor over essential oils business

Ghost employment investigation prompts recommendations at IDOC
Posted: 4:36 PM, Jul 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-09 17:07:51-04
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Office of Inspector General has recommended changes at the Department of Correction following an investigation into allegations of ghost employment.

The Inspector General’s office launched an investigation in October 2018 following a complaint about a Department of Correction supervisor selling essential oils during work hours.

According to the complaint, an IDOC employee told investigators the supervisor approached her about selling products during an IDOC meeting and gave her a product sample.

“Employee also indicated that she saw another DOC employee give the supervisor money during state time for what she assumed was payment for the purchase of essential oils,” read the OIG report. “Employee alleged that the supervisor recruited at least three other DOC employees to sell the products.”

In an interview with an OIG investigator, the supervisor said she began offering and promoting products through a private company during the fall of 2017, but stopped when IDOC launched an internal investigation.

The supervisor also said three of her Department of Correction subordinates joined the company and engaged in the business outside of work.

The OIG investigation found the IDOC supervisor received a percentage of the application fee for the three IDOC employees who obtained company memberships through her.

IDOC investigators found an email the supervisor sent from her state email related to the essential oils business.

IDOC policy prohibits the use of state property/resources for outside commercial activity.

“Although the investigation revealed the supervisor engaged in limited misuse of state property and a violation of DOC policy, her misuse of state property was low in volume and spread over a time frame of several months,” read the report.

The state estimated the supervisor spent 1 to 3 hours a day discussing products with her IDOC staff, but could not find enough evidence to support that claim.

The Office of Inspector General found “insufficient evidence” to bring a formal complaint against the IDOC supervisor before the State Ethics Commission.

“The evidence did not clearly show how much state time the supervisor spent promoting or offering products because some of this activity occurred during the supervisor’s lunch hours and after state work hours,” read the OIG report, dated May 23.

State employees who violate the code of ethics can face numerous sanctions including fines, suspension, or criminal charges, depending on the offense.

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The Office of Inspector General advises state agencies to prevent fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct.

The OIG recommends the Indiana Department of Correction distribute a written notice to all IDOC employees reminding them that if they engage in any outside business, they must do so on their own time without using state time or state property/resources.

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The Inspector General also recommends IDOC and its supervisors use caution when talking to subordinates about outside businesses they’re involved in.

“The OIG encourages DOC to consider providing additional training or instruction for all DOC employees in supervisory or managerial roles on the ghost employment and use of state property rules,” read the report. “Employees in authoritative positions often have the ability to wield undue influence over their subordinates, even if unintentional.”

Call 6 Investigates reached out to IDOC Tuesday morning for comment, and a spokeswoman said she was looking into it.