Trustees scrutinized for extra paychecks

Gary Coons
Sandra Chapman/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - 13 Investigates is uncovering more about a job created by the city, with a local trustee in mind.

Gary Coons was instrumental in the merger between the fire departments of Perry Township and Indianapolis. Now, the new liaison wants to be replaced in that township job as 13 Investigates looks into how many other Trustees are getting two paychecks.

The order is out for Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons: "Discontinue distribution of his trustee salary."

He's making good on a promise, after 13 Investigates discovered he would collect two full-time paychecks, funded by taxpayers for two government jobs. One was for $51,000 for providing emergency relief. The other was a $64,000 position as the city's public safety liaison. He denies the city job was a reward for driving the merger with Perry Township fire.

"I don't see that it is a reward. I would hope that I was rewarded based on my merits as my qualifications and them needing this position," said Coons last week.

But 13 Investigates has learned that the liaison position did not exist and was created with Coons in mind. Specifically, his background in firefighting, incident management, planning and mergers.

"I was obviously looking for anybody with that level of skill set. It didn't exist in those other candidates," said interim public safety director Mark Renner.

And it doesn't appear the city was willing to wait. The job was only posted for 5 days.

13 Investigates asked, "If you're really looking for a candidate. Don't you give it longer than 5 days?"

"We had 42 applicants in 5 days," Renner responded.

He says no one could guarantee they were going to have any better candidates.

Coons isn't the only trustee splitting his time between providing emergency assistance and another job. Washington Township Trustee Frank Short, who earns $45,000 in his elected role, is also a self-employed lobbyist.

"The statute doesn't address a trustee's got to be in a building from 9 to 4 everyday," Short told 13 Investigates.

As his own boss since 1992, Short says his business, technology and staff, give him flexibility. He says a job with set hours, won't work.

"Yeah, I probably would have never ran. You have to have some flexibility," explained Short. "I know when somebody comes in that door out there, that they're going to be treated with respect, and courteously, and in a prompt manner."

Jeff Bennett in Warren Township is the only other trustee with outside work. He considers his township role as part time and supplements it with 12 additional hours a week as a part-time senior project manager with the Indianapolis Housing Agency.

But the majority of trustees say they don't have time for other outside employment.

Center Township Trustee William Douglas is full time at $92,500 a year, followed by David Baird of Wayne Township at just over $81,000. Decatur Township's Steven Rink takes in $67,500 while Lula Patton in Pike Township is paid $63,000 for her full-time work. In Franklin Township Former Auctioneer Terry Royalty collects $54,000.

13 Investigates could not reach the new Lawrence Township Trustee.

Back at Gary Coons' office, he's asking the Republican party to find his replacement. The created liaison position comes with a $64,000 annual salary. Renner says cost savings from three unfilled jobs and salary reductions will cover the new expense.

He says while IMPD and IFD did receive budget increases, his office did not. Meanwhile, the Perry Township trustee's salary will remain part of the township's general fund.

Township trustee to give back salary