The Westfield City Council approved an appropriation for $845,000 from the general fund in to pay overbudget legal expenses that have accrued throughout the year and for a citywide audit that was completed earlier in the year.
The legal expenses are the result of lawsuits between Mayor Andy Cook and Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard.
The approval was contingent on forming an ad hoc committee to discuss legal invoices in more detail with city attorney Manny Herceg, who also is an attorney for Taft Law, one of the firms that submitted invoices to the council. The council voted 6-1 on both items, with council member Troy Patton voting against both.
The decision to form an ad hoc committee was made after several council members expressed concern about still not having received detailed invoices. The committee was expected to meet with Herceg sometime in the near future, although Herceg stated he could only provide detailed information on Taft invoices and not on legal invoices from other firms. Patton voted against both items, but council president Mike Johns said Patton would join fellow council members Scott Willis and Jake Gilbert on the ad hoc committee. The invoices must be received and paid before Dec. 21.
There wasn’t enough time between the Dec. 13 council meeting and the Dec. 21 deadline to issue a notice for another public meeting. To avoid violating Open Door laws, the council had to have less than four councilors present during the discussion with Herceg. The ad hoc committee will share its findings with the rest of the council, and therefore won’t violate Open Door laws.
Although the council approved the appropriation, it doesn’t mean all invoices are automatically paid. It moves the money from the general fund into the appropriate legal funds, but Johns said the council will go through the invoices more thoroughly prior to spending the money.
Moving forward, the council said it plans to request all vendors to submit invoices in a timely manner.
“We should not be looking at invoices in December for June or July or August,” Johns said. “So, it’s reasonable we ask our vendors and our suppliers to invoice in a timely manner. It’s also reasonable that once invoices have been received, we get them to the clerk’s office as expeditiously as possible. Moving forward next year, if we can address that process, we won’t be in a position like this next year.”
For more, visit westfield.in.gov.