Settling into first term, Carmel clerk-treasurer makes big changes
Taking over for an elected official who spent 20 years in office isn’t easy.
Christine Pauley took on that challenge when she defeated incumbent Diana Cordray in May to become Carmel’s clerk-treasurer.
But adding to the difficulty was the fact that Pauley, who came in without any prior exposure to the office, had to close out the city’s 2015 documents less than a week after she took over the job on Jan. 1. That came without much of a transition from her predecessor, Pauley said.
Now that she’s settled into the job, Pauley has made some sweeping changes to the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office.
She’s established a bond bank to help manage the city’s more than $200 million in bonds. She’s reorganized the office with new staff in new positions. And she said she’s looking to save the taxpayers’ money by analyzing city contracts and financial tools, such as payroll systems, to find the most efficient way possible.
When Cordray left office, it was uncertain what would happen to her staff. Many of her employees had been with the city for more than a decade and were loyal to Cordray. Pauley said she allowed any of those six staff members to apply for the openings, which are slightly different from the previous positions. Two applied, but none of the previous staff were chosen.
Pauley hired seven staff members, one more than her predecessor, but one staff member is part time. There were increases in pay because Pauley hired two certified public accountants to help manage the city’s finances. Previously, no CPAs were on the staff. The increased salaries were offset by no longer utilizing a consultant’s budget, which was used by Cordray to hire Mike Shaver to work on projects relating to the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.
In the past, City Council President Ron Carter was very critical of Cordray’s use of consultants, saying it was done for only politically-motivated projects, such as a report that was sent to the media about the threat of Carmel’s debt leading to a special benefits tax.
In order to help smooth the transition into becoming a second-class city, Carmel created a “bond bank,” which is a municipal corporation that provides debt management services for a city. It’s a board of individuals, hand-selected by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard. Bond banks can save taxpayer money by becoming a well-known entity for bond investors. It also allows the city to consolidate and lock in lower interest rates. The bond bank cannot create new debt, only manage the debt that already exists.
Critics complained about the makeup of the board, because it isn’t filled with bond experts. Pauley said it was important to have a diverse group of taxpaying citizens to provide input and transparency. She runs the board and the bond bank holds monthly meetings that are open to the public.
Pauley pointed out that before the bond bank’s creation, many of these financial decisions could be made behind closed doors, but this system creates more transparency.
ACCURACY AND EFFICIENCY
Pauley said there are plenty of little things she’s vowed to change since she’s taken office. She said she’s cracking down on gifts given to the office by potential vendors. She said banks would drop off gifts such as pizzas or potted plants or other items so they would be chosen for the city’s financial services. She said decisions won’t be made that way, and she’s ordered that many of the city’s current contracts be bid out again since they haven’t changed in many years.
“There’s no funny business,” she said. “We’re here to do the people’s business.”
She’s looking at possibly changing the city’s payroll system and using a system that’s compatible with Carmel Clay Parks.
She has attended and sent her staff to many statewide conferences to stay up-to-date on financial practices and reporting requirements.
She’s even trying to fix inaccuracies in bookkeeping. She said many files were kept on hard copy only in filing cabinets. She said her predecessor only had one person handle some functions such as payroll, and she found a mistake where someone entered in the number nine instead of six while doing payroll, which led to Judge Brian Poindexter being overpaid by around $1,800. Pauley said she had to ask for that money back, and he complied.
As a result, Pauley is now requiring that many financial practices such as payroll or accounts receivable have two people sign off before it can be finalized.
Pauley said she’s trying to improve cooperation with the Carmel City Council and the Mayor’s Office, but she isn’t afraid to tell someone if they are doing something the wrong way.
“This office is independent from the mayor but we are part of a bigger wheel,” she said.
Initiatives of Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley:
- Prepare for transition to become second-class city led by controller
- Review all systems for cost efficiencies and paper flow reduction
- Establishing a Bond Bank within the fiscal office
- Build stronger relationships with fiscal officers at other Indiana municipalities
- Analyze current in-house payroll systems versus third-party payroll systems in terms of cost savings and reporting requirements
- Competitively bid out city financial services contracts including lock box and treasury management
- Enhance use and knowledge of Laserfiche, a system for posting city documents online