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REPORT: Indiana May Have Manipulated Report On Amazon Worker’s Death To Lure Company To State; Governor Disputes

Tragedy struck on September 24, 2017 when 59-year-old Phillip “Lee” Terry, an Indianapolis Amazon worker, was crushed to death by a forklift while on the job.
A state investigation into Terry’s death faulted Amazon, but a recent investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting claims the state of Indiana absolved the company of responsibility in an effort to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Indiana. The investigation was published by the IndyStar, and suggests Indiana’s Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s attempts to lure Amazon to the state prompted state investigators to remove the fines originally levied against the company.
In response to the investigation, Holcomb’s office released a statement categorically denying the allegations.
“Let me be as clear as I possibly can be, I have never been involved in a Department of Labor case,” Holcomb said through a statement issued by his press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer.
The allegations from the investigation insist that investigator John Stallone, who began investigating Terry’s death the day after it occurred, received pushback from his superiors, so he secretly recorded his boss allegedly counseling Amazon on how to reduce its punishment from the state of Indiana.
Stallone, an investigator for the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) recorded his boss, IOSHA Director Julie Alexander, as she spoke to Amazon officials. Alexander, according to the Reveal investigation, allegedly told Amazon officials “what she’d need from them in order to shift the blame from the company to ‘employee misconduct.’” Alexander also on that call allegedly explained to Amazon how to negotiate a reduced fine and suggested the company partner with the IOSHA as a “leader in safety.”
Stallone also claimed to Reveal that Holcomb personally attended a meeting between Stallone and Indiana Labor Commissioner Rick Ruble. Ruble allegedly told Stallone that Holcomb had told him that getting the Amazon HQ2 in Indiana would be big for the state. Ruble also allegedly said at this meeting that Stallone needed to back off his investigation of Amazon or resign.
In his statement denying the allegations, Holcomb specifically mentioned this alleged meeting.
“Furthermore, I have never had a meeting with Commissioner Ruble and an IOSHA employee,” Holcomb said through his press secretary.
“My office told ‘Reveal’ that this information was false and yet they still published the fabricated allegations,” Holcomb continued. “The reporting is both irresponsible and deliberately misleading.  We are exploring any possible recourse to remove these heinous lies.”
Stallone told Reveal that he quit shortly after this alleged meeting with Commissioner Ruble and reported the situation to a federal OSHA official. Stallone told this official that “someone higher than Director Alexander” hoped to make the whole issue disappear “in the hopes it would keep Indianapolis in the running for their new HQ location.”
Reveal’s investigation found that a year after Terry’s death, “Indiana officials quietly signed an agreement with Amazon to delete all the safety citations and fines.”

“The agreement said Amazon had met the requirements of an ‘unpreventable employee misconduct defense,’” Reveal reported. “The official record now essentially blames Terry for his own death.”

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