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A new day, a new probe

The Indiana Department of Transportation official whose personal real estate deal has raised questions about Interstate 69 property acquisitions is no stranger to state ethics investigations.

Troy Woodruff and family members were among the property owners whose land was purchased for the I-69 project in southwest Indiana. The Indianapolis Star reported that, in all, the state paid $7 million for 32 parcels of property appraised at less than half that amount.

The INDOT chief, along with his father and brother, sold a three-acre sliver of a 33-acre field to the state and the rest of the parcel to an uncle and cousins. The Star reported that the two transactions gave Woodruff, his father and brother an 83 percent gain on land they bought in 2007.

A federal inquiry already has been conducted, with results pending. Gov. Mike Pence last week directed Inspector General David Thomas to investigate as well.

Woodruff has a winning record on inquiries before Thomas’ office.

The inspector general investigated his sale of the three acres to the state in 2010, clearing Woodruff of wrongdoing.

Legal and ethics experts who reviewed Thomas’ report, however, questioned the ethics official’s legal reasoning, charging it was “flat-out wrong.”

The inspector general also dismissed claims involving Woodruff, a former GOP lawmaker, in a 2005 inquiry. Woodruff was first elected in 2004, promising his southwestern Indiana constituents that he would never support daylight-saving time.

However, five months after he was elected, he cast what lawmakers and observers considered to be the deciding vote to move the state into daylight-saving time.

His support for one of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ chief legislative priorities that year did not go unrewarded. At a Woodruff re-election event, supporters paid $25 to shake hands and pose for pictures with the governor and to tour RV1, the $175,000 vehicle on loan to the state. The Indiana Democratic Party issued an ethics complaint.

While a deputy inspector general initially stated that use of the vehicle for a campaign fundraiser was prohibited, Thomas later ruled it was not.

The inspector general has said he will turn over results of an investigation of subsequent property sales by Woodruff’s family members to a prosecutor for independent review.

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