• Crowds gather at the Statehouse to protest Senate Bill 1

    Crowds wrapped around the Indiana Statehouse Monday morning, July 25th, mostly in opposition to the proposed abortion bans in Indiana Senate Bill 1. That bill was authored by Susan Glick, the Republican State Senator from District 13 in northern Indiana.

    The bill, which can be found on the Indiana General Assembly website, restricts all abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or “permanent impairment of the life of the mother.” In its current form the bill would be considerably more restrictive than the Mississippi Gestational Age Act, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case which effectively overturned Roe v Wade.

    In the Dobbs v Jackson case, Mississippi legislation prohibited abortions performed after a gestational age of 15 weeks. That’s only eight weeks earlier than the current interpretation of Roe v Wade, which stated that states could not institute restrictions on abortion prior to fetal viability (28 weeks at the time and approximately 23 weeks currently). 

    The Indiana Bill, which currently restricts abortions from implantation, is in it’s first reading before the Indiana Senate’s House Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee. The committee is currently listening to testimony before deciding whether to approve, amend, or reject the bill.

    There was a heated but respectful exchange between David Hewitt, a pastor from the Cruciform Bible Church in Indianapolis, and State Senator Greg Taylor, the ranking minority member of the committee, after Hewitt emphatically argued that the correct interpretation of the bible should restrict any and all abortions, and that committee members should amend the bill to include punishments for anyone involved in abortion attempts.

    Taylor quickly challenged Hewitt’s interpretation of the scripture and warned the pastor of the inherent dangers of creating legislation based on one religious perspective. Taylor assured Hewitt that he also loved God and honored the scriptures, but pointed out that interpretations have evolved to no longer include stonings and slavery.  

    If the bill is approved or amended it will then be sent to a full meeting of the state senate for a second reading for possible amendments and then a third reading for debate and vote. If approved by the State Senate it will be sent to the State Representatives for consideration, and if passed and signed could go into effect as soon as September 1st.     

  • Reach Services Director of Operations stole client’s identity.

    According to the mother and co-guardian of a former client at Reach Services, the current Director of Operations at Reach, Travis Phillips, stole from her son’s checking account, and also used his identity to take out personal loans and apply for credit cards.

    Her statements were corroborated by several former employees with knowledge of the situation. Those reports indicated that Travis befriended a Reach Services client receiving help due to his disability. He then offered to help the client pay his bills, and used that information to pay his own utility bills and take out several personal loans and credit cards.

    At that time, another employee at Reach Services was made aware of the situation and communicated the details to director Susie Thompson. These claims indicated that Phillips admitted to the crimes, his father paid back some of the damages incurred, and Phillips was fired or forced to resign.

    It is also alleged that Susie Thompson did not initially contact the client’s family, adult protective services, or the police department, but instead conducted a meeting with the client and another Reach employee. In that meeting the employee was instructed to help the client write and sign a letter to help absolve Reach Services of any wrongdoing.

    These events were reported to the Terre Haute Police Department, Adult Protective Services, and the Board of Directors at Reach Services. According to the client’s mother, the THPD’s response was that because the money was paid back there was nothing they could do.

    In an email provided by the victim’s mother, the Board of Directors responded to the complaint by stating that an, “internal investigation was initiated and completed in December (2017). Reach Services has taken steps to address the issue and considers the matter closed.”

    If these allegations are true, Travis Phillips was rehired, and is currently serving as the Reach Services Director of Operations while Susie Thompson and the Board of Directors, including current board president Chris Moore, had full knowledge of his crimes.

    A previous version of this article listed John Plasse as a board member of Reach Services. Plasse had been shown as a board member on the Reach website at the time the article was published, but has since been removed.

    This article is part three of a series, part one can be found here. https://terrehautevice.com/2022/06/16/questions-raised-about-death-of-local-veteran/

  • Less funding, lower performance: The effects of Indiana school vouchers after ten years.

    According to recent studies public schools are receiving less funding than they did ten years ago and students using vouchers experienced a slightly negative impact on standardized tests. Of the 15 states currently using a voucher program Indiana’s is the largest in the nation.

    The Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research study found, “aggregate spending on primary and secondary education in Indiana decreased by more than $88 million — or about 1 percent of the state’s general fund spending on education — in the 2019-20 school year due to school choice.”

    It was discovered that the reduction in spending came primarily from students enrolling in public schools other than the districts where they lived. The majority of those students transferred to schools with a lower level of per-student funding.

    Another study titled Impact of the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program conducted by Joseph Waddington and Mark Berends in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management showed that students transferring from public to private schools had a slight decrease in math scores and no significant change in English Language Assessments.

    These results were in line with similar studies conducted on the effects of voucher programs in Louisiana and Ohio. Researchers from both studies also noted that there is very little information available on the educational effects of voucher programs across the country.

    Many Indiana residents had expressed concerns about the effects of voucher programs on public schools when vouchers were first instituted in 2011 and also when they were widely expanded in 2021. Another concern was the use of public educational funds at private religious schools with religious qualifications for enrollment.

    A far more negative study was written by researchers studying the D.C. voucher program. According to their introduction and summary, “How bad are school vouchers for students? Far worse than most people imagine. Indeed, according to the analysis conducted by the authors of this report, the use of school vouchers—which provide families with public dollars to spend on private schools—is equivalent to missing out on more than one-third of a year of classroom learning”

  • Duke Energy raising rates again despite record profits and tax breaks.

    Duke energy is once again raising rates for electricity despite record setting profits, paying no federal income tax, giving multi-million dollar yearly donations, and a massive salary increase to current CEO Lynn Good. Rates are expected to increase by 26% for industrial customers, 20% for commercial, and 16% for residential.

    According to quarterly financial statements Duke Energy “gross profit for the quarter ending March 31, 2022 was $4.834B, a 9.1% increase year-over-year,” and “gross profit for the twelve months ending March 31, 2022 was $18.540B, a 6.03% increase year-over-year.”

    These record setting profit numbers were posted as tax records revealed that Duke Energy was one of several large US companies that paid no federal income tax in 2020. A combination of the 2017 corporate tax rate reduction and a $110 million dollar credit, contributed to Duke actually receiving a $281 million dollar tax refund from the federal government.

    The community page on Duke Energy’s website states, “Over $30 million in charitable grants each year are the driver behind impact and improvements in our communities.” In response to the recent rate hikes many expressed the belief that lower utility costs might be more effective at leading to better “improvements in our communities.”  

    John Downey, senior staff writer for the Charlotte Business Journal recently reported that, “Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good’s $16.5 million total compensation package in 2021 was 142 times the $115,851 in total compensation for the company’s median employee.”

  • New details emerge about abusive treatment of employees at Reach Services.

    Multiple former employees report an abusive work environment at Reach Services including: rampant fraud, anger management issues among senior leadership, disregard for mental health concerns, lack of training, and wrongful terminations.

    Several of these employees worked with Reach Veterans Services, a program designed to help veterans without housing find shelter and other support such as assistance with utilities, rent, transportation, food, and child care. Unfortunately, when the employees themselves needed help many stated that they were denied.

    Sadly, many of these former employees are veterans themselves, and some had previously received services from Reach. A few admitted to having attempted suicide partly because of their treatment, and one man named Bill Whitman recently took his own life in the Reach Services parking lot.

    A common allegation from a half dozen of these former employees is that they were hired because Reach was in desperate need of help. They were asked to perform technical job requirements for which they were not trained, then they were screamed at or fired by supervisors for minor infractions. Then several were threatened if they did not agree to write letters of resignation to prevent payment of unemployment.

    Reach services was contacted twice by email with no response, and once by phone and was connected with Travis Phillips who stated, “We’re not going to take the phone call because we do not respond to misinformation.”

    As previously reported one veteran stated that he was, “financially and psychologically ruined by Reach Veterans Services,” several stated that they believed Reach Services director Susie Thompson was trying to “break them,” and one claimed Thompson told her, “I will send you back to the hood.”

    Employees also reported being asked to falsify documents including time cards. At one point the Reach Veterans Services program had only two employees while trying to care for 82 veterans and those employees were frequently denied the overtime pay required to care for their clients.

    Allegations were also made that employees were told to make false claims on federal and local grant reports including a large grant received from the United Way of the Wabash Valley. Investigations are being made into these claims and follow up article will be written detailing the exact information regarding these accusations.

  • Loudermilk voices concerns over FOP endorsement.

    In a Facebook post dated June 16th, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 85 shared an announcement that they were endorsing: John Plasse for Sheriff, Terry Modesitt for Prosecutor, Mark Clinkenbeard for Commissioner, and Charles Johnson for Judge.

    Current Terre Haute Police Department officer, Adam Loudermilk, voiced concerns over the lack of representation – especially from the THPD – at the vote for the FOP endorsement, and the limited amount of communication to law enforcement officers about the date of the meeting.

    Adam is the brother of Aaron Loudermilk. Aaron is running as the Republican candidate for Sheriff against incumbent John Plasse,

    Adam Loudermilk stated that, “less than 10 members out of our 200 members got to vote on which candidates to endorse.” Vigo County Sheriff’s Deputy, Michael Ellsworth, responded to Loudermilk’s concerns by stating that at least two of the six members who voted were former city police, and “Plasse has a strong THPD backing by several members.”

    Some of that support may be a carry over from Plasse’s time as Chief of Police. Plasse was appointed Chief in 2008 by then newly elected Mayor Duke Bennett, and served in that role until winning his election for Sheriff in 2018. Plasse can be seen pictured above campaigning for “Duke” during Bennett’s 2015 race against Democratic candidate Mark Bird.

    While the debate over the fairness of the FOP endorsement plays out over social media, it does raise concerns again over law enforcement’s social media policies. Concerns first raised when THPD officer Gary Shook was suspended by Plasse for posts supporting Mark Bird, which he claimed violated THPD policies. That decision was eventually overturned by the THPD merit board.

  • Questions raised about death of local veteran.

    This story contains the topic of suicide. If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.

    On the morning of Monday, June 13th, local veteran Bill Whitman drove to the Reach Services building at 1400 Hulman Street, and took his own life in the parking lot. Multiple friends and family members shared that Bill’s experiences while working at Reach Services might have influenced his decision.

    Bill had served as a case manager with Reach Veterans Services for eight years. Friends described him as kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and selfless. His wife of 36 years, Patty, said he was extraordinary and that he loved Tai Chi, taking care of their yard, and taking care of people.

    According to their website “Reach Services saw the short comings of services offered to Veterans in the Wabash Valley,” and out of that lack of care started Reach Veteran Services in 2014. Through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families, Reach has housed hundreds of veterans without permanent shelter.

    Multiple veterans working for the organization, however, reported terrible working conditions influenced largely by Reach Services Executive Director Susie Thompson. One individual stating that he was, “financially and psychologically ruined by Reach Veterans Services.”

    Bill worked primarily in the Bell Building, located at 621 Poplar Street. In a post shared May 23rd on the Reach Veterans Services Facebook page, the organization expressed that Bill had “retired” twice, but friends, family, and co-workers told a different story.

    Bill’s direct supervisors called him a “perfect” employee, but also detailed a tumultuous relationship with director Susie Thompson. Multiple former staff members at Reach Veterans Services described a pattern of individuals being fired, then forced to sign resignation letters, and in Bill’s case, retirement announcements being made to the public.

    Additional reports of corruption and unethical behavior by senior leadership at Reach Services and Reach Veterans Services have been received, and Susie Thompson has been contacted for comment. A follow up article will be posted with further details.