Zionsville Town Council member Bryan Traylor called for Mayor Emily Styron’s resignation during the Oct. 3 Town Council meeting following statements the mayor made during her presentation regarding changes to the 2023 budget.
Traylor called for Styron’s resignation after she left the meeting. Traylor took issue with remarks Styron made during her budget presentation that he and other council members said were untrue regarding the town’s legal expenses.
After Styron left, Traylor said the mayor owed the council an apology.
“Quite honestly, I’d love to see you resign,” Traylor said. “Not because of tonight’s antics, but because of your almost three years of service. Every day that you’re our mayor, we’re worse off for it. I know changing over to a new mayor for the last year of a four-year term seems like that would not be easy to do. It’s even harder to keep her in office.”
Frustrations arose as the mayor addressed the council’s request to increase its legal budget by $75,000 as part of the town’s 2023 budget. Styron said the request was “out of step,” stating that from 2016 to 2022 the town paid more than $2.6 million to Barnes & Thornburg, an Indianapolis-based legal firm that has represented the council since 2020.
When contacted Oct. 4 regarding Traylor’s call for her to resign, Styron said that she had not heard about the comments.
“I am sure that councilor Traylor is hearing from his supporters,” Styron said. “But I don’t really put much time or effort into listening to Bryan Traylor.”
Styron presented a pie chart showing 72 percent of the town’s legal expenses going to Barnes & Thornburg during the 2016-2022 time frame.
Traylor interjected during the presentation, stating that the information was “inaccurate” and “misleading,” as Barnes & Thornburg represented the town, not the council, from 2016 through 2019. Other members of the council agreed that expenses accrued prior to 2020 did not accurately reflect the council’s legal spending.
Styron then voiced frustration with the council’s decision to sign a contract with Barnes & Thornburg with the former mayor following the election in 2019, prior to her taking office in 2020, “obligating the town for a future administration when that wasn’t the choice.”
Council President Jason Plunkett stated during the meeting that the retainer for Barnes & Thornburg was the same, $186,000 per year, from 2016 to 2022, equating to roughly $930,000 in total retainer values. The additional fees, he said, were due to the mayor’s lawsuit against the council in 2021 regarding her attempt to demote the fire chief, and her subsequent appeal following the decision against her, in addition to other bond obligations and ordinances.
The following day, Amanda Vela, the town’s public information officer, said Styron did not finish her presentation, and that there were two slides at the end elaborating on the legal expenditures.
“She did finish her messaging but did not complete showing her PowerPoint slides,” Vela stated in an email. “She was interrupted after showing the first legal expense slide, so I am guessing that didn’t help her in finishing the slides.”
Vela and Styron said the information on the additional slides, which are now available on the town’s website, state that the legal expenses were further broken down to illustrate that the council’s legal spending is double the town’s legal spending for all other departments.
“The legal fees for town council since the mayor has taken office are almost double what legal fees are for the mayor’s and administration’s attorneys,” Vela said. “This is what the mayor was speaking to when the town council has now asked for a $75,000 increase in legal fees.”
When asked to comment on Styron’s reply, Traylor said, “We get a copy of everything that’s supposed to be presented. We didn’t get a copy of any of her presentation (prior to the meeting). I’ve got no reason to believe based on how that presentation went that she didn’t finish it the way she intended to. Did we interrupt her? Absolutely, because she was intentionally misleading people. We’ve got a proposed budget that’s about $40 million for 2023, and she chose to take the opportunity to make a grandstanding speech over $75,000, when most of the town council’s overages in our legal budget in the last two years have been defending ourselves against her lawsuits.”