Letter: Mayor should reveal how money is being spent

From: Kenneth Fudge


What is our tax money being spent on? A simple, reasonable question the law requires the government to answer by producing itemized invoices for items purchased with our tax dollars.

Then why does every elected city official (mayor, every council member and clerk-treasurer) refuse to answer that question with regard to $150,000 of tax money given every year by Mayor Jim Lienhoop to a private corporation?

The city has historically paid the Columbus Economic Development Corp. (EDC) $14,000 a year for two seats on its board of directors, one seat for the mayor and one seat for a city council member. That $7,000 a seat is what other organizations also pay for representation on the board. When Lienhoop took office he increased the tax funding to the EDC more than 10 times to $150,000 a year paid in lump sum quarterly payments of $37,500.

To gain approval of City Council for the increase in funding, Jason Hester of the EDC and Lienhoop repeatedly claimed that the additional $136,000 would be spent only on marketing programs for recruiting new businesses from three target industries: pharmaceutical, engineering and office support services and a “talent attraction campaign.”

However, the EDC invoices approved by the mayor and clerk-treasurer are vague lists of items like Frisbees and computer bags, trade shows attended and internet ads. There is no detail like how many Frisbees at what cost per Frisbee or even the total dollar amount spent on Frisbees. A lump sum of $37,500 appears at the bottom of every quarterly invoice with no accounting of $37,500 in expenditures every quarter.

Some of the tax money pays for the mayor’s travel around the world, but those trips aren’t even listed on the invoices. This completely hides the mayor’s travel paid for with our tax dollars.

Indiana state law 5-11-10-1.5 states that the city’s fiscal officer (Luann Welmer, city clerk-treasurer) cannot draw a check for payment of a claim unless it is fully itemized. I spoke about this law and the lack of accounting for our money at a City Council meeting but was shut down. I spoke about it at two Board of Works meetings, and the mayor shut me down both times.

I asked the president of the EDC board, a Cummins executive representing Cummins’ interests, to provide an accounting of how our tax money is being spent, but she has ignored me.

Indiana state law is quite clear and specific in regard to specific itemization of expenditures. I am perplexed as to why the current administration continues to disregard this law.

If Lienhoop has found a legal loophole, he is not explaining it. Either way he is absolutely violating the intent of the law by hiding expenditures of our tax dollars through a private corporation.

We have no idea where our money is going. How can the council “go along to get along” and let Lienhoop do this? Why be so secret? Just account for the spending of our money as the law intends.