Unfortunately, statements have been made about me and my office that I have failed to provide information to the mayor’s review team, which was the alleged basis for the mayor’s lawsuit.
As clerk-treasurer, I have consistently provided information to the citizens of Westfield, city officials and members of council. I believe in the transparency of government and cooperated with the mayor’s review team by providing requested information by the end of October 2020.
Since the case was pending, I wanted to refrain from making any public comment; however, I feel that it’s important to inform the citizens of Westfield, as your elected clerk-treasurer, how this case came about and my concerns about the mayor’s review.
At the beginning of 2020, I requested an investigative audit of Grand Park by the Indiana State Board of Accounts during our state and federal annual audits. Prior to that time, the city council had raised concerns about the operations and the business dealings of parties related to the mayor at Grand Park.
Based on the findings of the Indiana State Board of Accounts and concerns raised by the city council, the city council passed a resolution in August 2020 to conduct an independent audit of Grand Park. However, before the city council was able to move forward with its independent audit, the mayor appointed the law firm of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP (Taft) to conduct a review of the city records and to purportedly address the city council’s concerns over Grand Park.
Taft entered into engagements with BKD and Baker Tilley to assist in the review, which could possibly shield this information under the protection of the attorney-client privilege between the mayor and Taft. If this were to happen, it would be contrary to my understanding of the city council’s intention to conduct a public, independent audit of Grand Park.
In September 2020, Taft requested that I provide administrator access to the city’s financial accounts within two days to the review team. In the approximate 13 years that Mayor Cook has been an official of the City of Westfield, I cannot recall any other such requests, neither from the mayor or any third party. Administrator access would allow the user to intentionally or unintentionally delete, change or manipulate data. I found this request concerning as the city council just announced its desire to conduct an independent audit of Grand Park, and now the mayor was seeking administrative access to the city’s financial systems.
I provided Taft, BKD and Baker Tilly with requested records and “view only” access to our NAV system, which contains the city’s financial records. I also invited the review team to come to my office to obtain any additional information.
Even though Taft had informed me that administrator access was not necessary for their review, after I declined to provide administrative access to the mayor and/or Taft, the mayor sued me. The contents of this are public record, but a portion of the mayor’s request was to provide the mayor and his staff unlimited access to all financial information of the city, under the allegation that I was not cooperating with the mayor’s review team.
After I received the mayor’s complaint, I still did not agree to provide “unlimited access,” which would require me to provide administrator access, but I again agreed for the review team to come to my office and get any additional information purportedly needed for the review. This agreement was filed with the court and then used to suggest that the mayor’s lawsuit was necessary to compel my cooperation with the review team. In my opinion, these allegations detract attention from the mayor’s request for administrator access to the city’s financial and payroll systems after the city council requested a financial audit of Grand Park.
As clerk-treasurer, my duty is to maintain and safeguard the integrity of our city’s financial accounts, and as such, I do not believe that providing unfettered access to Taft, BKD, Baker Tilly and/or the mayor, under these circumstances, is in the city’s best interest. I am hopeful that the city council will continue its efforts to conduct a true independent audit of Grand Park, that will be transparent and available to the citizens of the City of Westfield for review. I will continue to safeguard the financial records of the city, as is my lawful duty, and fulfill my responsibilities as clerk-treasurer. I want to thank my legal team at Webster & Garino LLC for their assistance in this matter, and for more information about this case, please visit websterlegal.com/cookvgossard/.
Cindy Gossard, clerk-treasurer for the City of Westfield