Jasper Native Steve Braun To Join Pence Administration

Photo: Indiana House Republican Caucus

Photo: Indiana House Republican Caucus

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH-TV) — Representative Steve Braun will resign his Indiana House of Representatives seat this fall to become Commissioner of Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development. Current Commissioner Scott Sanders will shift to oversee the agency’s Unemployment Insurance division.

Gov. Mike Pence announced the changes Thursday morning.

“With expertise as both a public servant and a successful entrepreneur, Steve Braun has the unique background and skills necessary to continue to drive Indiana’s workforce development and pair it with innovative career and education opportunities for Hoosiers,” Pence said in a written statement. “Under his leadership, Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development will work to align its efforts with the Indiana Career Council and Regional Works Councils in order to ensure career pathways and readiness for all Hoosiers.”

Braun, a Republican from Zionsville, has served in the House since 2012, representing Boone and Hamilton counties. He is running unopposed for re-election to the seat in November, and said he plans to resign that seat if he wins.

“The opportunity to lead the Department of Workforce Development will let me serve the entire state, and as I finish out my current term, I look forward to continuing my public service in a new capacity,” Braun said.

State law prohibits former legislators from lobbying the Indiana General Assembly for one-year after they leave office. Braun will comply with that mandate, Pence’s office said.

Braun is a Harvard University graduate who founded data consulting company Braun Technology Group in 1990. The company, which at one point employed more than 700 people, was sold in 2004. He has been self-employed, focusing on real estate investments since then, Pence’s office said.

Current Commissioner Scott Sanders will stay on with the agency as Senior Deputy Commissioner, providing what Pence called “operational management and executive oversight” of the Unemployment Insurance division.

That division came under fire following an I-Team 8 investigation in early 2012 in which whistle-blowers alleged mismanagement of the state’s unemployment trust fund. Former DWD employees alleged ineligible unemployment claimants were being paid benefits simply to reduce the agency’s caseload.

Mark Everson, who served as DWD Commissioner at the time, resigned two months after that investigation first aired on WISH-TV.

Sanders, who had served as DWD Deputy Commissioner for Systems Information and Analysis since 2010, and as Chief Financial Officer since 2006, was appointed to head the agency by then Gov. Daniels in April 2012. He was re-appointed after Pence took office later that year.

During his term, Sanders also faced questions about the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Just one month after he took office, a former DWD auditor alleged that some businesses had been overpaying into the fund due to confusion over a higher unemployment tax rate recently approved by the legislature. Cathy Luff, who said she was removed from her auditing position after speaking with I-Team 8, said she first reported the problem in 2011, but that the agency did nothing to fix it.

Sanders also presided over the installation of a new computer modernization system at DWD, which had been wrought with cost-overruns and implementation delays. The project, which was originally targeted for completion in 2008, wasn’t fully finished until 2013. Documents obtained by I-Team 8 show total costs on the project reached at least $52 million—more than twice the original $24 million budgeted for the work.

Braun, a native of Jasper, is a 1978 graduate of Jasper High School.  He was a three-sport standout for the Wildcats where he was an all-state end for the football team.  He is married to Jennifer (Schneider) who is also a native a Jasper.  The couple has five children.

Braun will begin his new role as DWD Commissioner on Nov. 24.

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