Monday, September 8, 2008

Hill, Sodrel, the office transfer of December 2006, and the congressional debates of 2008

In response to an email I sent to some reporters in the 9th District (at the bottom of this post), here's what I received from Candy Neal of the Dubois County Herald...

Back in late December 2006, I wrote a story about Sodrel's office closing and that included the Hill staff's complaint. Here's a copy of the story:

JASPER — Staff for Congressman-elect Baron Hill said Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-9th, has closed his district offices prematurely.

The area coordinator of Sodrel's Jasper office said federal officials made him turn in equipment weeks ago, and the phone system was disconnected Friday, rendering the office useless.

"About three and a half weeks ago, the General Services Administration called and said they wanted our computers back, and I had to turn in my Blackberry," coordinator Don Hayes said this morning. "It was pretty hard to talk to anyone else on the staff after that."

Sodrel's term will end Jan. 4, when Hill is sworn in.

Hill's chief of staff said Sodrel's staff did not transfer to them ongoing casework on residents' concerns.

"Unfortunately for the people of the 9th District, all pending casework and issues were not transitioned to our staff, so we cannot work on the problems," said Ryan Guthrie, Hill's chief of staff.

"Congressman Hill asks that anyone who has an open issue please resubmit it on Jan. 4 and we'll immediately get to work on it."

Federal officials said personal records and information on ongoing casework had to be returned to the residents involved, which took several weeks to complete, Hayes said.

"Every personal document had to be returned to the person. And the person had to be advised that they have to refile their concern with the new (Hill) staff on Jan. 4," he said. "That took us some time to do that."

Hayes gave the information on unfinished projects being handled by the Jasper office to Larry Ordner, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar's southwest Indiana regional director.

Other records that weren't of a personal nature, including correspondence and meeting documents, were destroyed, Hayes said.

Sodrel's Jasper office opened in 2005 to serve five 9th District counties: Dubois, Spencer, Crawford, Orange and Perry. Its lease will expire at the end of December.

Hayes said the landlord is willing to lease the space to Hill for an office. The location of Hill's district offices has not yet been determined, a spokeswoman for Hill said.

Earlier this month, Sodrel had to vacate his Washington office. He had to work out of another congressman's office until the congressional session ended, Hayes said.

For the remainder of Sodrel's term, people having questions and issues on the federal level can contact Hayes at his home number, 482-2847.

Hayes will resume his role of chairman of the Dubois County Republican Party in January. The party made that decision last week.

Contact Candy Neal at

On Sep 7, 2008, at 3:44 PM, eric schansberg wrote:

From a press release a month ago and then in more recent events, it looks like Hill wants to use his claim that Sodrel badly botched the exchange between his November 2006 loss and Baron's seating in January 2007-- to avoid or limit debates between the three of us this Fall.

When I talk to Hill's people, the argument sounds reasonable. Their minor complaint is that offices and office furniture were moved early, making it unnecessarily difficult for Hill's people to set things up. The larger concern is that the Sodrel people did not make constituent case files available. One of Hill's primary staff said it was traditional to send those files to the next rep so that they could contact the relevant parties and see if they wanted the new rep to continue the intercession on their behalf.

When I talk to Sodrel's people, they claim that the GSA mandates the dates-- so that it was out of their hands. And they claim that one is not allowed to forward those files because it violates privacy provisions within the law. That sounds reasonable too.

I don't know what to think. Do you know anything about this? The only question I had that stumped the Hill people: if this was such a big deal, why didn't we hear much about it from the media? No (good) answer.

If this is a legitimate complaint, then I can say why Hill would want to bring attention to it. But if it's not legitimate, then it's sad that Hill would use this as a canard to try to limit/prevent debates. In any case, I hope you'll bring the appropriate facts to light.

Thanks for your time and consideration...eric


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