An employee fired from the clerk-treasurer’s office April 17 said she believes her termination was politically motivated.
Ann Bingman, who worked as the city’s director of internal controls since February 2016, said Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley made the decision to fire her after she learned Bingman had provided a tax-audit document to Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s office. Pauley has been a supporter of Fred Glynn, Brainard’s challenger in the May 7 Republican primary.
Bingman said Pauley had previously accused her of “conversing with the enemy” when she saw her talking with City of Carmel Employee Benefits Manager Sue Wolfgang, who is running for city clerk, about city business. Pauley was considering a run for clerk at the time, Bingman said.
Bingman said the termination surprised her.
“She has threatened to fire me before, so I honestly thought I was going to get yelled at, threatened, and then go right back to work,” she said.
For a few months, Bingman said she has been troubled by some of the tasks she’s been asked to complete in the office.
“I feel some of our normal course of business work was sidelined to do research for the political adversaries of the mayor,” Bingman said.
Pauley declined to discuss specifics of the situation.
“As an experienced finance professional, I consider all personnel matters to be confidential, not to be discussed in public and will continue with this policy,” she said.
She referred to an Indiana law that states clerk-treasurers “shall appoint the number of deputies and employees needed for the effective operation of the office, with the approval of the town legislative body.” The law also states the employees in the office serve at the discretion of the clerk-treasurer.
Bingman’s termination caught several city officials by surprise. City spokesman Dan McFeely called the news “disturbing.”
“Ann is one of the most knowledgeable employees the City of Carmel has when it comes to dealing with complicated financial issues, and the City of Carmel is in the midst of its annual audit by the State Board of Accounts,” he said.
City Council President Jeff Worrell said he has concerns about how the audit will be completed without Bingman. He said the city council has scheduled a public meeting for 5:30 p.m. April 23 at City Hall to address the situation.
“Right now I’m trying to figure out if there is anything the city council can do to make sure we know the full scope of the situation and how are we going to protect the interest of the residents and the citizens to get through this audit, which having participated in the intake meeting, it’s a very serious thing,” he said. “We just got our first (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) done last year. We went through a whole lot getting things caught up from previous administrations, and I don’t want to take a step back.”
Bingman, a Fishers resident who was the only certified public accountant employed by Carmel, said she doesn’t know how the city will complete the audit without her and that she is willing to answer questions from her former co-workers and give advice to help get it done.
“My commitment is to the city, and I am very concerned about me being absent from the role. People rely on me. I am not saying this makes me great. I’m saying if there are questions about how to do a journal entry, they ask me. If there’s questions about how to do a bank (reconciliation), they ask me,” she said, adding that she wrote all of the policies and procedures for the clerk-treasurer’s office.
McFeely said Bingman’s future with the city is unclear but that she may be rehired in another department.
“We do know that in addition to her financial expertise, Ann also has paralegal training and experience, and that there is currently a pressing need for a paralegal/legal assistant within the Carmel Legal Dept.,” he said, adding that Bingman expressed interest in the position. “(Mayor Jim Brainard) feels it would be beneficial to keep Ann working for the City of Carmel, given her experience and knowledge.”
Bingman said she would not be interested in working for Pauley again but that she hopes to be able to return to the city in some capacity.
“I have worked with all of the directors and employees and the mayor, and these are excellent, committed people,” she said. “I can’t think of any place I would rather work, and I am highly committed to doing whatever it takes to make it a really great place.”