INDIANAPOLIS -- The former head of an Indiana state agency had close ties to a company that received nearly $1 million from the department he led before stepping down to run for Congress.
Former state workforce development commissioner Steve Braun told the Indianapolis Business Journal that Chicago-based Inquidia Consulting was the best option for helping develop a data system forecasting future demand for about 800 occupations.
Inquidia was started by several of Braun's former employees at an information technology company he sold in 2004 and he had a 27 percent ownership of Inquidia until shortly before it started working for the state in 2015.
The Zionsville Republican was appointed to lead the state agency by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2014 and resigned that position this summer. Braun is now seeking the congressional seat currently held by Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who is running for Senate.
Braun said he supported Inquidia's involvement in the forecasting system from the start.
"As we looked around in terms of people that could do it for us, we weren't comfortable that there were vendors in the current system really that . were capable," Braun said. "I knew my guys could because this is what we did."
Braun said he followed the advice of agency attorneys and sold his Inquidia stake. A state financial disclosure form shows Braun sold his stake in June 2015. Indianapolis-based Knowledge Services, a state procurement contractor, released a "request for project services" seeking a vendor to help with the workforce system in August 2015.
Inquidia was one of six bidders, according to DWD, and was ultimately selected.
Braun said he had no direct role in hiring the company.
The agency said in a written statement that it "cannot, for a variety of reasons - including confidentiality - provide a list of people who were involved in the (contract) scoring process, other than to say it did not include Steve Braun."
Inquidia first reached a deal with state officials in mid-September 2015, with contract extensions in 2016 for a total of $981,160, according to state records.
Two months after the contract involving Inquidia was signed, the agency asked the state inspector general's office for a review concerning the company employing Braun's son, Jonathon, as a senior data architect and Braun's previous ownership stake.
The inspector general's office determined "it does not appear that a potential conflict of interests exists" under state code, but suggested Braun be screened from involvement with Inquidia.
Democratic state Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis questioned the timing of Braun's submission to the inspector general's office.
"The main concern is that it would have been better if Steve, who I have the highest regard for, had gotten the ethics opinion before going forward," DeLaney said. "I don't see a suggestion he made 5 cents off of this. But the system is a little strange where you get an ethical opinion after the fact."
Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com