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Indiana Justice Agency Head Fired for Misallocating $417,000 in Funds

On May 26, 2006, the executive director of Indiana's Criminal Justice Institute was fired for misallocating $417,000 in grant money earmarked for a program to help the children of prisoners.

Heather Bolejack, 31, allegedly funneled the money to a family friend who intended to use the lucre for personal pursuits such as cars and travel. A written statement detailing Bolejack's firing also suggested she altered documents to cover up her misdeeds.

According to the governor's office, Bolejack had also directed that another federal grant for $80,000 be awarded to her friend shortly before she was placed on leave, and that employees inside the agency refused to process the grant.

Bolejack, an attorney, was appointed to the $86,716-a-year position in April 2005 by the Governor's office. As head of the institute, Bolejack oversaw the administration of more than $60 million in federal grants, including the one in question.

Bolejack was suspended on April 25 pending the outcome of an investigation by the state attorney general's office. That investigation found that Bolejack improperly awarded the $417,000 grant to McKenna Consulting outside the review and approval process, and failed to disclose her relationship with Michael McKenna, a childhood friend of her husband. The investigation also found that McKenna never provided any services and planned to spend more than half the money on salaries, office space, cars and travel.

Bolejack's deputy director, Susanne Katalina Gullans, 28, also was implicated in the scandal. Accused of falsifying travel reimbursement documents and lying to investigators, she was dismissed on May 12.

Gullans tried to resign, but the institute's board of directors chose to fire her instead. The firing was intended to send a strong message to other state employees, said Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, who is a member of the board.

Carter said his office plans to file a civil suit to recoup $80,000 of the $417,000 grant dispersed before the payments were stopped in April. Additionally, Marion County District Attorney Carl Brizzi said a special prosecutor would be appointed to determine if criminal charges were warranted. Brizzi said he expected a federal investigation as well.

Bolejack claims she did nothing wrong and said she had no regrets about how she performed her job. She said ordeal has taught her a lot about trust and loyalty. "I've learned to really watch my back," she said. 

Source: The Indianapolis Star

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