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CALL 6: Nepotism found at Indiana state agency

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 18:14:30-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana Department of Revenue manager participated in illegal nepotism within the agency, according to a newly released report from the Indiana Office of Inspector General.

Jimmy Fenton, a Production Manager for the DOR Collections Division, signed off on a mother hiring and directly supervising her own daughter, according to state documents.

The mother, Vanessa Shockley, hired her daughter, Janessa Buckhalter, to work at the Indiana Department of Revenue as a tax analyst in April 2015.

Fenton participated in and approved of the hire, records show.

The Office of the Inspector General received an anonymous complaint in October 2015 and conducted interviews, reviewed personnel records and emails.

The state found Fenton violated the state’s nepotism rule which prohibits state workers from hiring relatives.

Shockley conducted reference checks and extended the job offer directly to her own daughter, records show.

“The daughter’s personnel record also includes a memo from the mother with the subject line “Justification for Hire,” read the OIG report. “The memo provides reasons for hiring the daughter.”

In an interview with OIG, Fenton said another manager was assigned to approve Buckhalter’s time sheets and to conduct her evaluations, but admitted they both worked in the same group.

As part of the investigation, OIG interviewed the Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner, who indicated that he was aware of the mother-daughter relationship but told Fenton that the daughter could not report to the mother.

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“He stated that the daughter ended up working for the mother contrary to his orders,” read the report. “He also stated that he was not aware his orders were not being followed until the mother’s group moved floors and he noticed the daughter sitting with her mother’s group rather than on a separate floor.”

Janessa Buckhalter resigned from the Indiana Department of Revenue, and Jimmy Fenton and Vanessa Shockley were terminated, according to DOR spokesperson Amanda Stanley.

“A matter related to this issue is pending with the Office of the Inspector General,” said Stanley in a statement to Call 6 Investigates. “As such, the department cannot comment further at this time. Questions regarding the investigation should be referred to the Office of the Inspector General.”

Fenton entered into a settlement agreement with the OIG, which was approved by the Indiana State Ethics Commission on February 11, 2016.

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