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Audit shows lack of control in Zionsville, questions $800,000 in spending

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Indiana State Board of Accounts audit has cited Zionsville government for several hundred thousand of dollars of questionable spending, including more than $200,000 of renovation work at a three-year-old building.

“The Town Council didn’t feel it was appropriate to renovate a three-year-old building, certainly in the middle of a pandemic when it was not being used” said Jason Plunkett, a Republican who is president of the Zionsville Town Council.

According to the State Board of Accounts, the exact figure is $205,585, and the Town Council did not approve the spending.

The Board of Accounts audit noted that the spending was a violation of state law.

Plunkett told News 8 even after the council denied the renovation, Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron, a Democrat, went forward with the work.

Plunkett said, “While this was happening, we were asking questions and we were requesting that we don’t pay for this. We were told if we don’t pay for it because we have a contractual obligation that the mayor entered into, we would be forced to pay it or otherwise open ourselves up to litigation.”

The State Board of Accounts (SBOA) audit also found the payroll account was overdrawn by $752,000 at the end of 2021.

Plunkett says the town employees were paid on time and none of the checks bounced, but the Town Council had almost no idea how much money was in the bank.

Styron declined News 8’s invitation for an interview and sent a statement placing the blame on a software issue.

“Unfortunately, the system has failed to live up to its expectations. After implementation, the town became aware that the software firm had not developed the necessary Indiana regulatory and statutory reports.”

However, Plunkett says the issue is more than a software glitch, but a mayor spending without oversight. “There were legal fees, for example, that were paid with purchase cards. There were claims paid to vendors that were not approved by the Town Council and that is where the SBOA comes in and says they have concerns about the lack of internal controls because those situations were not caught until the audit was performed.”

The State Board of Accounts has recommended an outside independent investigation to be carried out, but the council has its hands tied.  

Plunkett said, “So, our struggle is, the State Board of Accounts recommends an investigation because of the negative account balances, but I can’t, we can’t, as Town Council president, enter into a contract with someone to come in an investigate the town finances. That would have to be something signed by the mayor.”

The State Board of Accounts performs an audit on every city and town in the state every year.

The Town Council is expecting more issues in the next audit.