During the closing minutes of the March 21 Zionsville Town Council meeting, Mayor Emily Styron declined to answer questions from Councilor Josh Garrett about delayed financial reporting after the town installed new financial system proposed by the mayor.
Garrett, who served as town council president from 2017-2021, was seeking answers to questions regarding the town’s financial system, such as:
- Why is the council not receiving accurate and regular financial information?
- What progress has the administration made to remedy the problem?
- What will it take to get the financial system working efficiently?
“For someone who claims to be a proponent on transparency and accountability, it is confusing to me why (Styron) is not willing to stand up and talk about, what I would argue, is the town’s most important system, as it allows us to know what’s going on with our revenue and expenses for the entire town,” Garrett said.
Shortly after the meeting, the town announced the hiring of a new CFO, Kellie Adams, who starts April 11.
According to Garrett, the lack of financial reporting from the mayor’s office dates back to April 6, 2020, when the mayor initially came to the council requesting the creation of a CFO position for the town.
The council agreed, and at the end of the interview cycle, Tammy Harvard was selected to be the town’s first CFO.
According to Garrett, shortly after Harvard started, the mayor’s administration returned to the council requesting to replace the town’s financial system with a newer and more transparent system.
Harvard, who resigned as CFO in December 2021, said the administration chose system from the software company OpenGov.
“I couldn’t argue that our system was old, and I certainly supported the idea of transparency, so we voted in favor of this,” Garrett said. “But what they didn’t tell us was that they were going to shut off the old system before the new system was brought online. That’s a huge red flag. That’s what those of us in the IT world would consider a ‘worst practice,’ because if something goes wrong, you don’t have a fall back.”
Garrett said that the council only learned about the situation months after the fact, when problems had begun occurring.
Since the town switched to OpenGov, the council has only received financial information from the mayor’s office three times in 18 months, according to Garrett. He said the information has been incomplete, inconsistent and in some cases inaccurate.
Garrett said in in the past, the council always received that information upon request.
“I want to be clear that I don’t think these financials are being hidden from us,” Garrett said. “I just want my questions answered. And I don’t want it to be a closed-door meeting. I want the mayor to come down here and talk to this council about what I think is a big problem for this community. The public has a right to hear what’s going on.”
Styron, who attended the March 21 meeting but declined to answer Garrett’s questions, provided Current the following statement afterward:
“Our switch to a new financial system has delayed monthly financial reporting. Like (the) Town Council, I am frustrated that this has taken more time than anticipated. I am confident our new CFO Kellie Adams will step into this role with the knowledge and solutions to keep moving us forward.”