INDIANAPOLIS— WRTV Investigates has uncovered new details on why the Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner stepped down after only eight months on the job.
The Governor appointed David Adams to Department of Workforce Development Commissioner in September 2022.
Adams’ salary was $210,000 to lead DWD— a state agency with 980 employees tasked with paying unemployment claims to Hoosiers who lost their jobs as well as administering programs aimed at connecting employers and workers.
Adams stepped down in May 2023.
The Governor’s announcement did not give a reason for Adams’ departure after eight months, but indicated he would be serving on the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.
“Really this was moving from a role to a different role with the Governor's Workforce Cabinet,” said Adams in a phone conversation with WRTV.
The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet members are appointed by the Governor and include business and community leaders, education leaders, Indiana lawmakers and leaders from state agencies, according to the website.
Adams explained he was brought in as DWD Commissioner last year to help with the legislative session.
“We needed to help the Governor get through his legislative agenda which we successfully did,” said Adams. “I was brought in Sept of 2022 to really focus on the legislative process. Because of my experience having managed the Public Employees Retirement Fund, having us go through the legislative process was an important aspect to this.”
A big part of DWD is unemployment insurance, but Adams said his skills are more geared toward improving Indiana’s workforce and helping businesses find skilled workers.
Adams said he and the Governor agreed to let Richard Paulk, who had been working in operations, to take over as DWD Commissioner.
“If I had just departed and there was no official or capacity moving forward I could see where there would be challenges, but I brought in Richard Paulk as my COO to take on this role knowing we were going to do this transition,” said Adams. “I think it was handled appropriately.”
In the months before his resignation, DWD faced criticism after it demanded some Hoosiers repay thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.
Adams said his resignation had nothing to do with that.
“None, whatsoever,” said Adams.
Adams said moving to the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet is better for the taxpayers.
“I’m still playing a role to hopefully impact our state in a very positive way,” said Adams. “I think this is best for the taxpayers too in terms of not continuing on in this position and understanding this is a more appropriate role for my skill sets.”
WRTV Investigates has been trying to get answers since this spring about Adams’ resignation, even filing records requests.
We asked for a copy of his resignation letter, but the state denied our request saying it can withhold certain personnel file information.
In June, we filed a public records request for internal emails about Adams’ resignation.
Four months later, in October, we received 69 pages but none of the emails contained any information about why Adams stepped down.
“It forces people to speculate,” said Julia Vaughn, executive director at Common Cause Indiana, a nonpartisan lobbying organization aimed at open government. “Most people who sign up for an important job heading up an important state agency are going to stick around for longer than that. So it’s fairly unusual.”
Vaughn said the state should be more transparent about its decisions including why top officials are leaving.
“I think the public deserves understanding of what came to the decision for the public official to leave an agency,” said Vaughn. “A lot of times when someone resigns, there’s more to that story.”
WRTV Investigates has made half a dozen requests to speak with Governor Holcomb but his office has not granted our requests.
So WRTV Investigates showed up to a November 2 event.
WRTV Investigates: Some say the public needs to hear more about why these decisions are made. What's your response to that?
Governor Holcomb: I think you're referring to David Adams. He did the job he came in to do. And I was quite pleased with it. He's currently serving on my Governor's Workforce Cabinet. He helped me get through the legislative session, which is what I needed, at the time, his expertise. He’s continuing to serve the state faithfully. Thankfully, He did what a lot of leaders do and made sure his successor is in place months before his departure. I’m still very thankful for the service he provided to the state of Indiana and still does to this day.
WRTV Investigates: Are you satisfied now with the level of transparency and where things stand now?
Governor Holcomb: Yes…but I’m always willing to improve. We want to turn the cards face up as you allude to and make sure the public knows everything their elected officials are doing. We’ll continue to operate that way. We are proud of our record.
Julia Vaughn with Common Cause Indiana said the state can do more to keep the public informed about the reasons behind changes in leadership.
“Wise people don't stop asking questions,” said Vaughn. “They want to understand what the backstory is, and i think the public has the right to that information."