By Adam Aasen and Pete Smith
Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Diana Cordray has signed a contract with an accounting firm to assist her office in its role as the treasurer for the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.
A certified public accountant from the firm Peachin, Schwartz & Weingardt will work under the direction of the Clerk-Treasurer to help it complete audits from the State Board of Accounts and comply with new legislation passed this year in regards to redevelopment commissions.
And like all things related to the CRC, this decision comes with its share of controversy. That’s because John Weingardt, a principal at the firm, also happens to be the president of the Fishers town council.
Cordray said she was looking for a part-time CPA with a thorough understanding of the growth occurring in Hamilton County who wasn’t conflicted in regard to working with other city departments.
“It is important to me to have loyalty,” she said. “I think John is a good man.”
Councilor Luci Snyder disagreed with the selection of Peachin, Schwartz & Weingardt but acknowledged the Clerk-Treasurer’s decision didn’t need council approval.
“I think this is not a wise choice, but it’s her choice to make,” Snyder said, noting that Carmel and Fishers often are in competition to lure new companies and forms of economic development.
“I think this would be difficult to make work correctly,” Snyder said.
Weingardt said he doesn’t think there will be a problem.
“My role has nothing to do with economic development opportunities that are between Carmel and Fishers,” he said. “My role is to provide consulting services to the Clerk-Treasurer as she requests from my firm. If a conflict comes up, I will resign.”
Weingardt said the scope of each project hasn’t been defined yet and that his firm will meet with Cordray in late April to discuss all of the projects and the firm’s role in assisting the Clerk-Treasurer.
Mayor Jim Brainard reacted to the appointment by saying, “I like John, and he has been active with redevelopment in Fishers.”
The move is also seen as a necessity to comply with changes to the state law regarding redevelopment commissions. It’s a change that State Sen. Luke Kenley, whose district includes northeast Carmel, has been fighting for a long time.
The new changes mean more government oversight of redevelopment commissions and regular reports sent to the State Board of Accounts. Detailed audits could also occur, which is why Cordray said she decided to hire an accounting firm.
“One of the most outstanding pieces of that legislation is that the city’s fiscal officer is now the fiscal officer of the redevelopment commission,” Cordray said.
Kenley told the Current that one of the main goals of the law was to increase transparency of redevelopment commissions.
“This is taxpayer money that is being spent so it is important to have records available to everyone,” he said.
City Councilor Ron Carter said he thinks the bill, “handcuffs redevelopment commissions to the point where there’s no real point to having them.” He added that he thinks the change could lead to political games by some officials.
“It’s not helpful at all,” he said. “Luke has not been helpful to the citizens of the area for some time.”
But Kenley believes the new reporting requirements aren’t unnecessarily burdensome and thinks it’s not even mandatory that cities hire accounting firms to achieve the reporting standards.
“That really depends on them if they want to contract out or handle it internally,” he said. “I really don’t think this legislation should create any extra burden on the redevelopment commissions.”