Mayor to City Council: “You have just shut down all the projects in this city.”
By Karen Kennedy
In a surprise 4-3 vote, the Carmel City Council voted Monday against a proposed $60,000 professional services contract for Carmel Redevelopment Commission Director Les Olds.
In response, Mayor Jim Brainard said: “You just shut down the redevelopment commission. Project after project in this city will stop. Is it really the council’s will not to sell the Partytime building? Or the Shapiro’s building? Or to move forward with the City Center? Because that’s what will happen. Nothing will move forward. I need someone to run that department.”
Brainard also questioned the legality of the vote.
“Redevelopment commissions are a direct grant of power from the state leadership. This is like Carmel’s city council trying to tell the City of Westfield that they can’t spend money,” he said.
As the contract was introduced for discussion, council members expressed that there had been confusion about Olds’ annual compensation, as they felt the $60,000 that had already been paid to him in the calendar year fulfilled his proposed contract for the entire year.
“We approved $60,000. Now, in a budget that we did not approve, there is another $60,000. This has created an issue,” Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said.
“We all know how long a year is. If we approved $60,000 for a year, how is it that the whole amount is spent by July?” Councilor Carol Schleif asked.
However, Brainard said, “We agreed that we would review this (Olds’ compensation) as the year progressed. That’s what we’re doing now, and there’s a lot of work still to be done. We are plaintiffs in ongoing lawsuits. I need staff to handle that in the CRC.”
After the contract proposal was opened for general discussion, Councilor Luci Snyder began to read aloud from a series of emails she had sent to Olds, repeatedly referencing incomplete files and documents discovered as the Clerk Treasurer’s Office began the task of cataloging the CRC’s records.
“Partytime deed documents are missing signatures. Other parcels’ files are missing original documents or signatures,” Snyder said. “How embarrassing is it for the city to have to ask the other parties concerned for copies of our contracts? I do not think you have done your job, and I will not vote for your contract.”
Brainard interceded on Olds’ behalf and said, “Les Olds is an architect. There are some things he does well and other things he does not. Maybe record-keeping is not his strong suit, but I see the care and skills he uses on projects. He has saved the city a lot of money.”
To that, Schleif responded, “I am also an architect, and I take offense at the suggestion that architects somehow hold to a lower standard of record-keeping.”
Councilor Ron Carter suggested a departure from procedure by suggesting that Olds be allowed to speak on his own behalf. He did, and said, “We have made a Herculean effort to get documents up to date. We are trying to get better. But our staff is now cut from six to two.”
Ultimately, that argument, along with Brainard’s intercessions, was not enough to convince the majority of the council. Sharp, Seidensticker, Snider and Schleif voted against Olds’ contract; Finkam, Rider and Carter voted for it.
It is uncertain what this will mean for the future of the CRC.