- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A private license branch operator has suspended two former Bureau of Motor Vehicles officials amid a state ethics investigation ordered by Gov. Mike Pence, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Express MVA has placed Chief Operating Officer Shawn Walters and Director of Special Operations Robert “Pete” Wood on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the ethics investigation, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1PnvLLK ).

Pence ordered the ethics investigation Aug. 6 when he canceled the company’s contract with the BMV. The Star had reported Walters allowed Express MVA in 2010 to open a private license branch with state-issued workstations and access to the BMV’s computer system while letting the company charge auto dealerships and other customers convenience fees for title and registration work that can double the cost of the services traditionally provided by the BMV.

Walters was the BMV’s chief of staff when he helped negotiate the agency’s contracts with Express MVA. He was an administrator at another state agency before joining Express MVA in June 2014 and did not ask the State Ethics Commission whether the move would violate a law setting a one-year cooling-off period before employees can take jobs with state vendors.

Wood was the BMV’s director of strategic partners until 2012 with duties that included overseeing Express MVA’s compliance with the agency’s policies and procedures. He then took a job with the company before leaving to return to the BMV. He rejoined Express MVA in May.

Express MVA chief executive Kevin Calvert said Walters had phone calls, social interactions and meals with BMV employees shortly after he began working at the company, but those ended after he received a letter from a BMV attorney about a month into the job. Calvert said those conversations did not involve Express MVA’s work in Indiana but rather information Walters needed to help the company land contracts in other states.

Express MVA is trying to persuade Pence to reverse his decision not to renew Express MVA’s contract in October, Calvert said.

Walters has no published telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

Wood defended his actions.

“I’m willing to cooperate 100 percent with the investigation because I know I’ve not done anything wrong,” he told the Star.

Wood said the state inspector general’s office cleared him to work for Express MVA in 2012. He said he had no interaction with BMV employees in his new Express MVA position.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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