Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh says he and other city officials will attend the city council meeting on April 4, but has still not committed to having a report from Umbaugh & Associates at the council’s meeting April 1, as requested by council members.
At the council’s March 7 meeting, Councilwoman Deborah Cain, R- District 6, wrote a letter that she would like the mayor and his department heads to give the council a “detailed and descriptive plan for the city of Marion” going forward.
The letter also calls for the administration to provide a report from Umbaugh, the accounting firm he hired last year to look at the city’s finances, detailing everything the firm has done for the city, including the findings of Umbaugh’s look into the city’s finances, how much the city has paid Umbaugh so far, as well as what it expects Umbaugh to do in the future and how much it expects to pay them in the next three years.
All council members present that day verbally agreed to the letter.
Council members and Alumbaugh have gotten along well to this point. The council, for the most part, did not fight the new administration concerning more than $2 million in budget cuts and changes to city personnel and services, such as the new leaf and trash ordinances.
Alumbaugh ran his mayorial campaign on transparency and maintains the city’s financial books are always open to council members and the public, but that same level of transparency hasn’t been applied to Umbaugh, which hasn’t spoken publicly about the work it has and is doing for the city.
Alumbaugh has repeatedly said a report is forthcoming but has not stated when that might be. When pressed on the topic, the mayor said Umbaugh prefers to not say anything until it’s confident the report is complete and thorough to avoid having to backtrack on any statement or release.
“There will be an open discussion with the council,” Alumbaugh said. “I don’t want this to become confrontational. I still want to work with the council to help move the city forward. I also have to work with Umbaugh and let them do their job.”
But council members have grown impatient.
‘We’re not asking for a five hour presentation,” Council President Jim Brunner, R- District 3, said. “We would just like some kind of update.”
Last week, Alumbaugh gave the city’s 2016 financial report, a public document anyone can access online through Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance, to some council members. While it gives the council a chance to compare 2016 to past years, it doesn’t give any information about Umbaugh’s work.
If Alumbaugh decides to not fulfill the council’s request informing the council and public about Umbaugh’s efforts on behalf of the administration, state law gives the council the ability to force the issue.
According to Indiana Code 36-4-6-21, the council has full investigative powers over the mayor, any city employee or department and any “person with whom the city has or is about to enter into a contract.” That same statute also allows the council access to all records related to the inquiry and subpoena anyone related in the inquiry. If a person refuses to speak to the council or produce records, the council may bring the issue into one of county’s courts for a hearing and ruling.
So far, council members have not discussed taking advantage of that state statute.
“We would never go to something like that,” Brunner said when asked if the council would consider using its investigative powers.
Cain, too, said she hopes it never comes to the council having to legal force the issue and hopes Alumbaugh will fulfill the council’s requests.
“We’re going to see if they’re open and if they’re willing to be open,” she said.