The Carmel City Council has created a five-member committee that will oversee city audits.
The action comes after disputes between the Council and Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley about the handling of a recent city audit in which past Council President Ron Carter accused Pauley of “sloppy” work.
The Council voted 6-0 on Jan. 9 to pass an ordinance to form the committee that would have the City Council president as an automatic member. The clerk-treasurer would be prohibited from serving on the committee, but one full-time city employee will be appointed by the mayor to the committee. The mayor also gets to appoint a resident who is a CPA or has experience in finance, and the City Council gets to appoint two residents, both of whom need backgrounds in finance but only one has to be a CPA.
Pauley said this would be a great idea if it was a truly independent committee to provide an extra set of eyes. She said she has reservations because longtime city financial consultant Curt Coonrod worked with city attorneys to draft the legislation. She said that presents a conflict of interest because he’s giving advice on how to pick a committee to check his work and approve his contract. The audit committee has the power to recommend outside audit firms to be retained by the City through its Board of Public Works and Safety.
“Why is Curt Coonrod helping draft this legislation?” Pauley asked. “I’ve asked the State Board of Accounts to look at this ordinance to make sure it complies with their procedures, because at the end of the day it’s my name who signs the documents and I am responsible for what’s done. This ordinance really doesn’t change that.”
Pauley butted heads with Coonrod over a recent audit and the two disagreed with how the audit should be conducted. Pauley said Coonrod wasn’t in compliance with the SBOA’s preferred procedures, but Coonrod said his accounting practices are sound and there are often different ways to do something. Coonrod has given numerous seminars on municipal accounting and was elected auditor of Marion County in 1986 and also served two terms on the Indianapolis City-County Council before going into the private sector.
City Councilor Jeff Worrell said the committee is “another layer of oversight” and that the goal is to help resolve disputes.
“Curt Coonrod wants to do it one way, the clerk-treasurer wants to do it another why, who breaks up the tie?” he said. “An audit committee makes sense to get all of the branches of government to communicate, especially if people don’t get along. I would equate it to a referee.”
Worrell said it doesn’t concern him if Coonrod advised on the legislation.
“A lot of time was spent on this committee,” he said. “We got the legislation we were looking for.”
No member can serve more than two consecutive terms. Any member, except the council president, can be removed at any time by a two thirds vote of the council.