Carmel approves $220K for Christkindl market despite clerk-treasurer objections


By Ann Marie Shambaugh

The Carmel City Council held a special meeting June 9 to approve spending $220,000 from Mayor Jim Brainard’s arts grants fund to help launch a Christkindl market at the Center for the Performing Arts Centre Green.

The unanimous vote for the only item on the agenda came after Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley requested additional time for her office to review the claim, which she received May 23. She said most claims are itemized, while this one only requested the funds to help start up the market.

“Knowing what I know about that fund code account, it requires a variety of documentation to be provided when the money is awarded by the mayor’s office, so I wanted to have an understanding of how this occurred after the awarded period of time had expired,” Pauley said. “Little did I know there was roughly around $220,000 left in that account that had for whatever reason not been spent by the mayor in giving out awards and grants in December 2016 for the year 2017.”

Pauley questioned why this newly formed nonprofit didn’t have to follow the same rules as others that receive arts grant funds, such as going through an application process and providing financial documentation, among other things.

City Council President Sue Finkam said the council voted to approve the claim after city attorneys reviewed it and said it was ready to be processed.

“I have no problem with her asking questions about the nonprofit or the project, but it has nothing to do with certifying the claims for approval,” Finkam said.

She also said that the mayor’s office reviews requests for arts grant funds, not the city council.

Dan McFeely, a spokesperson for the City of Carmel who also is president of the Christkindl market’s nonprofit board of directors, said he could not provide a breakdown of how the $220,000 would be spent because “the budget has not been completed or reviewed by the board.”

An agreement for professional services signed May 2 to hire former Lake City Bank employee Maria Murphy as the Christkindl market master and CEO states that she will receive $110,000 a year and benefits that include the city paying 80 percent for a family health insurance plan for three years with automatic renewal for another three years.

“By virtue of the president of the board of directors, Dan McFeely, approving a more than $700,000 six-year salary commitment, of which over 70 percent of the 6-week-old corporation’s initial city grant money funding of $220,000 is already spent on administrative costs since (the) CEO has incurred (the) expense of traveling to (the) Germany week of May 30, 2017, plus a contractual commitment of City of Carmel employees to work the Christkindlmarkt, Inc. project, the city has high risk in losing the $220,000 investment plus (it) may be liable for future costs since the (Carmel Redevelopment Commission’s) investment of the 42 Christkindl huts (is) currently being procured,” Pauley stated in an email to the city council. “From what has been presented to this office, the corporation has no other source of revenues to sustain these costs but future city funding.”

The $220,000 claim originally was planned to be up for a vote at the regular June 5 council meeting, but Pauley said she told Brainard she wasn’t ready to sign off on it. She requested the item be placed on the council’s next regular agenda for June 19.

Brainard said the special session was necessary to pay bills.