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Westfield mayor sues clerk-treasurer for prohibiting access to city’s financial information during audit 

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Westfield Mayor Andy Cook filed a complaint against Westfield Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard Jan. 14 in Hamilton County Superior Court 2. The complaint states that after Cook ordered an audit of the city’s accounts in August 2020, Gossard failed to provide the correct information to the appointees conducting the investigation. A city official said all other department heads complied and granted the requested information to those conducting the investigation.

Mayor Andy Cook

“On January 14, 2021, J. Andrew Cook, in his capacity as the Mayor of the City of Westfield, brought legal action against me, Cindy Gossard, in my capacity as the Clerk-Treasurer of the City of Westfield,” Gossard stated. “The allegations of the complaint are related to the payroll services and keeping of the financial accounts of the City of Westfield, which are within my purview, as the Clerk-Treasurer, under Indiana statute.  The pleadings in this matter are public and I will not comment further except to say that I will uphold my duty to the citizens of Westfield and safeguard the finances of the City, as I have done since 1996.”

According to the complaint, in August 2020, Cook ordered an examination of the city’s accounts and property within all city departments and appointed Bryan Callahan of BKD CPAs & Advisors, Danial Hedden of Baker Tilly and Zachary Klutz of Taft Stettinius & Hollister to conduct the investigation. On Sept. 2, 2020, Callahan, Hedden and Klutz sent a request to Gossard for access to the city’s Cloud Navigator account, ADP account and Purchase Card account through a Chase MasterCard from Gossard.

Gossard

A master services agreement was executed with ADP in 2008, and since then, the city has paid $80,000 annually to ADP for a total of $900,000. The city uses ADP’s Workforce Now, a web-based portal providing single-point access to ADP online solutions and employee-facing websites and resources relating to human resources, payroll, benefits, time, talent and attendance. Within the portal, the city can create reports and review financial information, among other tasks.

However, the complaint filed by Cook states that to date, Gossard has not allowed city officials access to the functions for which the city paid ADP. The complaint states that neither Cook nor any of his staff can view the information or run reports to aid in the city’s operation.

After Callahan, Hedden and Klutz requested the ADP access, on Oct. 14, 2020, Gossard still refused to provide it. The appointees then submitted a second written request for the information. On Oct. 30, 2020, Gossard provided a flash drive containing information in an incorrect format that was inaccessible.

On Nov. 3, 2020, the appointees requested additional information from Gossard, including credit card statements and payroll information. They requested the information be provided in a specific data file as opposed to the PDF files originally submitted. On Nov. 10 and 11, 2020, the appointees requested updates, but Gossard did not respond.

Without access to the requested information, the investigation couldn’t be finished. On Jan. 11, Gossard announced there were “some issues with ADP” at a Westfield City Council meeting. She said she had scheduled a meeting on Jan. 19 with Finley & Cook to discuss bringing the city’s payroll services in-house. Finley & Cook is a certified public accounting firm.

“As of the date of this filing, the Clerk-Treasurer remains steadfast in her refusal to cooperate with the investigation despite the city executing a new MSA with ADP on January 13, 2021,” the original Jan. 14 complaint stated. “Instead, the clerk-treasurer is attempting to thwart the appointees’ access to critical information by switching payroll providers. The clerk-treasurer has no statutory authority to contract with Finley & Cook or any vendor for payroll services.”

Cook is seeking an injunction to prohibit Gossard from signing a contract with Finley & Cook or any other payroll vendor. He also ordered Gossard to cooperate with the investigation and provide the requested information to the appointees.

Cook also is seeking a declaration that would prohibit Gossard from executing a contract on behalf of the city for more than $25,000 and a declaration that Gossard does not have the power to control or limit the city’s access to payroll, financial and other information of the city through software that the city provides.

On Feb. 1, Judge Jonathan Brown signed an agreed entry between the two parties.

The agreed entry states that Gossard will provide the data and documents requested by Callahan, Hedden and Klutz. It also states Gossard will provide the examiners access to the data required at an on-site visit to her office Feb. 12. The agreed entry states that Gossard will not execute any agreements on behalf of the city for $25,000 or more, and that the agreed entry will remain in force through Feb. 22.

After the agreed entry, Gossard filed a motion requesting that Taft Stettinius & Hollister, the firm representing Cook, be disqualified from serving as Cook’s counsel due to violating ethical rules and principles.

A hearing on the request to disqualify the counsel is scheduled for Feb. 11.

City of Westfield Communications Director Vicki Duncan Gardner issued the following statement about the situation:

“The entire situation is one of access and transparency to public processes and documents. Mayor Cook, under Indiana Code, initiated a statutory examination/investigation of all city accounts. All City of Westfield departments have complied with requests from the examiners. However, for months, despite repeated requests by the statutorily-appointed examiners, the clerk has refused to comply with basic requests for public documents,” the statement read. Then, on the heels of those requests and the city administration requesting access to review functionality within the ADP system that the city pays for, the clerk said in a public meeting that she was taking payroll functions ‘in house.’ The administration was forced to ask the court to intervene. In other words, the city had to take action not only to preclude a potential payroll disruption for the city’s 200-plus employees, but also because it would disrupt the ongoing audit/investigation. The city was forced to ask a court to enter an order for the clerk to provide basic access to public documents. The court entered that agreed order. The pending legal matter has nothing to do with enforcement of the investigation because there are no results yet. We don’t know where the examiners are beyond the last update. There are no results in large part because the clerk has refused to comply with basic and repeated requests for public documents.”


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