Carmel construction projects to continue amid council flap

Mayor Jim Brainard
Published: .
Updated: .

There's controversy in Carmel after the City Council said no to the mayor's request to continue paying a department director. The council's vote is tied to redevelopment projects in one of central Indiana's most affluent cities.

Construction projects continue in Carmel even though there's no one technically overseeing them. Monday night, Carmel's City Council voted to stop paying the executive director of the Redevelopment Commission.

Carmel Council President Rick Sharp was one of four council members who voted Monday night to reject a contract extension for longtime Carmel Redevelopment Commission Executive Director Les Olds. Sharp says it's time a city department head took over the role, not a consultant, and save taxpayer money.

"A message has been sent to the mayor that we are serious about having sound business practices in place," said Sharp.

In January, the council approved $60,000 to pay Les Olds in a consulting role with CRC. Monday night a new contract asked for another $60,000. Because of the city's past debt issues, the council approves contracts over $25,000.

Sharp said he and other council members expected the executive director's role to be reduced this year, and that first $60,000 would have been enough. The council president argues this is another example of Mayor Jim Brainard's inability to stick to a budget.

"There was no attempt to manage the funds for Mr. Olds or to budget the allotted funds," Sharp said.

But Mayor Brainard argued, "This is a city department. It makes no sense not to have a director of a department that is entrusted and responsible to deal with several millions of dollars a year."

Mayor Brainard tells Eyewitness News the council's vote was a political statement and that he was the target.

Last year, the council approved to pay Les Olds $112,000 to do the same job as the CRC's executive director.

"I am optimistic this will get worked out for the betterment of the taxpayer," said the mayor.

The mayor says construction projects will continue despite the battle between his administration and the city council. He says if there isn't a compromise reached in a few weeks, outside help may be needed.

Carmel council member Luci Snyder said she voted against the contract extension because she believes Les Olds is "incompetent" to direct the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. The mayor admitted at Monday night's council meeting that a "handful" of the legal documents tied to redevelopment projects that Les Olds oversees were missing pages and "unorganized."