Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop is taking aim at his predecessor and her supporters, requesting they move on from their efforts to undermine his administration.
In a formal statement read during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Lienhoop talked about a petition that was signed by former mayor Kristen Brown and about a dozen of her supporters objecting to the proposed 2017 budget, along with repeated public records requests requests and complaints about his administration.
Lienhoop read a one-page statement detailing his administration’s efforts since January that he said have included re-establishing trust among city employees and reaching out to partners at the state and federal levels. He also said the city welcomes those who question their government, calling it “the right thing to do.”
“The public’s right to know is inviolate and we have demonstrated our belief this is so by providing unparalleled access by the media to elected officials, department heads and other city professionals,” Lienhoop said. “However, for the past 10 months or so, we’ve been witness to a number of actions by our former mayor, Kristen Brown, and her supporters that abuse these public access processes.”
He described the objection petition being filed as the latest abuse of the process, noting that Brown and her supporters have filed at least 24 public information requests with the city while also filing seven complaints with the Indiana Public Access Counselor.
In addition, Lienhoop said the group has made numerous phone calls, along with email requests to city employees, outside professionals and former employees. He alleged that Brown has attempted to get the federal government to investigate the city’s Rocky Ford Road project, which actually began during her own administration.
Lienhoop also said the city has responded to each document request and complaint and will continue doing so. However, he described some of the requests as “downright silly.”
“Earlier this year, one of the Board of Works members passed me a note during a public meeting informing me that she was leaving to attend another meeting and would not return,” Lienhoop said. “The next day, we received a public information request asking for a copy of the note.”
He added that most requests and complaints require a search of paper or electronic files that necessitate a review to determine whether the search was thorough enough and whether information not permitted to be released is excluded, such as personal or health information about employees. Still, Lienhoop pointed out that looking into the requests is costly.
“The cost to those who complain and object is next to zero,” he said. “The cumulative cost to our city to respond to these is in the thousands of dollars.”
Brown, who attended Tuesday night’s meeting, called Lienhoop’s statement “shameful” and “disrespectful” and demanded an apology. She was also critical of the city’s response to the petition on the budget, saying some of the city’s responses were “misleading.”
Brown lost the mayor’s seat to Lienhoop in the 2015 Republican primary by a nearly two to one margin, saying after the votes were in that her loss was due to negative campaigning by Lienhoop.
For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.