Commissioners to pay for contract

The bill for last week’s contested hiring of a new county financial consultant will be picked up by the Bartholomew County Commissioners.

That motion was approved by commissioners Larry Kleinhenz and Carl Lienhoop. Commissioners chairman Rick Flohr was not present at the regular weekly meeting.

Monday’s action was a departure from last year, when the now-retired Dan Eggermann was paid from a fund controlled by county auditor Barb Hackman.

On Aug. 9, Hackman chided the Bartholomew County Council after they voted 5-2 to replace Eggermann with the Seymour-based Reedy Financial Group.

The vote was made after Hackman requested, unsuccessfully, that other firms be considered and that she be allowed a voice in the decision.

The council has the legal authority to hire a consultant without approval from other elected officials, council attorney Chris Monroe said.

The one-year contract with Reedy will cost taxpayers between $2,000 and $5,000, compared to the $15,000 that Eggermann received from the auditor’s office in 2015.

But another objection voiced by Hackman last week was that the vote to hire Reedy was made without any prior public notice.

“(The council) needed our help in finalizing this, since it was not on their agenda,” commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

In response, council president Bill Lentz said Monroe issued another opinion after last week’s meeting that the commissioners should approve the contract “to make sure our bases are covered.”

County attorney Grant Tucker, who serves the commissioners as Monroe serves the council, said he saw no legal reason not to approve the contract.

However, Tucker did recommend to Lentz that his organization further review the terms of the agreement.

“I’m not exactly sure what services (the council) are seeking,” Tucker told the commissioners. “I’m not sure you are going to find a real easy definition.”

Lentz, who originally recommended Reedy, cited the Seymour firm’s ability to find innovative ideas to increase revenue without implementing a new Local Option Income Tax, as well as its low cost.

All council members who voted to approve Reedy have long been against implementing new taxes, while both Eggermann and Hackman urged the council to consider new sources of revenue last year.

The commissioners weren’t the first to offer to pay Reedy’s fees. Last week, county treasurer Pia O’Connor said she was willing to foot the bill with leftover funds from her 2016 budget.

But on Monday, Lienhoop noted expendable income currently available to O’Connor office is tied up in a salary ordinance for regular county employees.

“I don’t think it’s legal or appropriate for her to volunteer that money,” Lienhoop said.

In approving the contract, the commissioners fulfilled a promise they made last week that they would assist the council in hiring a financial consultant in whatever way the council wished.

A representative of Reedy was not present when the council began its 2017 budget talks Tuesday morning.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.