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Sep 5, 2019

Indiana governor 'disgusted' by texts official sent intern

Official recruited college intern online; resigned after sending inappropriate texts to her
By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he's ``disgusted'' by inappropriate text messages that the No. 2 official at the state's troubled child welfare agency sent to a college intern before he abruptly resigned in July.

Holcomb commented on Todd Meyer's resignation from the state Department of Child Services after The Indianapolis Star published a story Thursday about dozens of personal texts Meyer sent the female intern, including messages sent late at night or on weekends.

Among the texts Meyer sent the intern, whom the Star didn't name due to the nature of the allegations, were ones in which he said he wanted to ``hang out'' with her and that he enjoyed the smell of her perfume.

Meyer resigned without giving any public explanation on July 16, one day after the intern reported his behaviour to human resources and quit the internship, the Star reported.

Holcomb and DCS Director Terry Stigdon declined the paper's interview requests. But when questioned about Meyer's resignation at a Thursday public event, Holcomb said he was ``disgusted'' after reading about the texts sent by a fellow Republican he hired last year to help iron out longstanding problems at the child welfare agency.

``I am disgusted by what I read. Beyond disappointed,'' the governor said, adding that a state personnel investigation found that the communication between Meyer and the intern was inappropriate.

Holcomb said Meyer would not be able to work in state government again.

Meyer, who is 47 and married, apologized for his behaviour, sending a statement to WXIN-TV on Thursday in which he said, ``I should not have communicated in the manner I did.''

``These messages were intended to be received in a positive and friendly manner, but I now recognize they were not, and I understand,'' he said.

The former intern told The Star that Meyer recruited her in May after viewing her profile and photo on LinkedIn.

``He sent me a message on LinkedIn totally out of the blue,'' she said. ``I didn't put my name out there or contact him first. I had a gut feeling it was creepy, but then I thought it could be an awesome opportunity.''

She said she took the internship after discussing it with her parents and that Meyer, who became her direct supervisor, began texting her soon after she started, sometimes during non-working hours.

None of the texts Meyer sent the intern were sexually explicit and some were work-related, but she said she considered many of them creepy and inappropriate.

In one of the texts she said she showed to state officials before Meyer resigned, he told her ``you smell very nice.'' In another, he said he wanted to ``hang out'' with her. He also shared songs with her, including a grunge love song, and repeatedly asked if she was hanging out in her parents' swimming pool.

She said one day in the office, he asked her, ``What's your scent?''

``I said 'what does that mean?''' she recalled. ``He said, 'Your perfume smells so good.' I was taken aback and so flustered. I said something like, 'It was something my mom got me.'''

Later that night, Meyer texted her, ``It's just that you smell very nice and I was curious to know what your secret elixir is,'' adding a smiley face emoji.

Holcomb tapped Meyer, a former top prosecutor in central Indiana's Boone County, to help implement recommended reforms at the agency after long-festering problems in the state's child welfare system exploded into public view with the December 2017 resignation of the agency's director at the time, Mary Beth Bonaventura.

In a scathing letter, Bonaventura accused Holcomb's administration of making management changes and service cuts that ``all but ensure children will die.''

Meyer was hired one month after losing the May 2018 primary while running for a circuit judge post in Boone County after deciding not to seek a fifth term as county prosecutor.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said in a statement Thursday that Meyer's resignation is ``just the latest example of a culture of cronyism fueled by little to no accountability and where the governor allows perpetrators to quietly slink away without facing consequences for their actions.''