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 Efforts to Save Home Ongoing

February 11, 2009 - Efforts of supporters of the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home to convince Gov. Mitch Daniels to intervene and stop the closure of the Home at the end of the current school year have not yet succeeded.

“We’re continuing toward closure.” That was the brief, to-the-point response of Jane Jankowski, Daniels’ press secretary, when asked Monday for an update on the position of the governor and his office with respect to the Indiana State Department of Health’s plans to close the Home.

Two weeks earlier, immediately following a rally that drew hundreds to the statehouse on Jan. 26 to protest closure of the Home, the governor met with Adjutant Steve Short, chief administrative officer of the American Legion Department of Indiana. During that meeting, Daniels had expressed a willingess to consider alternatives the Legion might come up with to closing the Home and making it more cost efficient.

When she spoke to The Banner on Monday, however, Jankowski said she was not aware of any subsequent contact between Short or any other representatives of the Legion and the governor since Jan. 26. That could soon change.

In a press release issued Monday, the Legion’s Short said that there “have already been a number of conversations and meetings to evaluate the ISDH plan and begin preparing our recommendations.” Short did not indicate, however, when exactly the Legion plans to meet again with the governor to discuss potential alternatives to closing the Home.

Jankowski, who said she had received and reviewed a copy of the Legion’s latest press release, called it “troubling” and took issue with several statements in it. “Unfortunately,” she said, “there’s not a lot in here that’s accurate.”

The Legion claimed in Monday’s press release that the ISDH had removed “a truckload of historic materials” from the Home and had planned to remove more yesterday. In the press release, the Legion said Daniels had ordered the return of the items already removed and cancelled the second scheduled pickup.

“The State Department of Health didn’t have anything to do with any of this,” Jankowski said. “Let’s just start there ... and there’s no property that’s been removed” Despite her initial claim that no property had been removed from the Home, Jankowski then went on to say that the Archives Division of the Indiana State Museum had, in fact, removed a small number of items from the Home last week. “My understanding is that they removed four small (items) -- one was a painting, I think, of a long time ago superintendent, and I think the others were aerial photographs of the facility -- to take back to the archives.”

Jankowski stressed that what had been removed from the Home was not a “truckload of items,” and said that the Archives Division had acted on its own in removing the pieces, not at the direction of the ISDH. She also said that the items that were removed had been in a room somewhere and “were not on a wall or anything like that.”

“They did this on their own,” Jankowski said of the Archives Division. “They go to state facilities periodically to inventory such hisorical kinds of pieces.”

According to Jankowski, the governor did not order the Archives Division to return the items that were removed from the Home. Instead, she said her understanding was that the ISDH had asked the Archives Division to return them, a decision in which she said the governor’s office concurred.

While Jankowski said the ISDH had nothing to do with the removal of the items from the Home, the Legion clearly believed otherwise. In the press release issued Monday, Short said Legion suspects the ISDH “is not dealing openly and honestly with the Home’s future and those who have an interest in it.”

“This just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Short said in the release. “We met with (State Health Commissioner) Judith Monroe and her staff last month, and it appeared to us that some progress had been made -- but not a week later many of us received essentially the same statement that had been released earlier.”

Short went on to say that the ISDH was moving forward “without any regard to public input, and despite the fact that several state legislators either already have or are preparing to write legislation that would keep the Home open. ...” He said that, to the Legion, this seems “to be the height of contempt for the democratic process.”

The Banner attempted to contact the ISDH to ask about the removal of property from the home last week and plans to return the items. As of Tuesday’s news deadline, however, the ISDH had not responded.

 

In a story in last week’s Banner, Jane Jankowski, press secretary for Gov. Mitch Daniels, identified the public agency that removed a small number of items from the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home a week earlier as the Archives Division of the Indiana State Museum. After last week’s paper came out, Jennifer Dunlap, public affairs Director for the Indiana State Department of Health, which oversees the ISSCH, notified The Banner that the Archives Division is actually part of the state’s Commission on Public Records, and is not connected to the ISM. Dunlap also said the items had been removed the week before that indicated by Jankowski. While Dunlap did say that representatives of the ISM had also recently been at the Home to inventory items of historical interest, she the ISDH has asked them to forgo additional activities of this nature for the time being.

 

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