Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carmel Mayor Spent $52,000 On Travel Over Past 5 Years

A couple of months back, Advance Indiana told you about Carmel city attorney Doug Haney spending more than $17,000 on out-of-state travel last year. It turns out that his boss Mayor James Brainard isn't shy about spending taxpayer money on travel either. Mayor Brainard spent about $52,000 on out-of-state travel over the past five years according to a report by Current In Carmel's Robert Annis. Despite his costly travel expenses, many of Brainard's trips are paid for by outside groups.

Brainard's travels have taken him to far away places like England, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. His most expensive taxpayer-funded trip was his week-long trip last year to England where he personally met with representatives of 60 different companies according to Annis, which cost $5,022. Many of Brainard's trips are taken as part of his role as a trustee for the U.S. Council of Mayors. Others trips are taken to sell outsiders on the "Carmel brand" he tells Annis. He says he's in high demand as a speaker because of the success Carmel has enjoyed under his leadership.

Brainard most frequently travels to Washington, D.C. in search of federal dollars for his affluent community. Brainard tells Annis that he has been successful in helping secure $24 million in federal grants for Carmel over the past five years, including new equipment for the police and fire department, high-efficiency LED streetlights and funding for roads and trails. Brainard tells Annis that during one meeting with a federal highway official he learned that Carmel could get 100% funding for its roundabout projects instead of the typical 80% funding because of their supposed environmental benefit. He said city officials had not been taking advantage of the more favorable funding formula until he took that information back to them.

Regardless of whether Brainard's travels are truly beneficial to Carmel taxpayers, I'll hand it to him for at least having his talking points down justifying his extensive travels better than Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who becomes extremely defensive and unintelligible when someone asks him about all the time and money he spends traveling outside the city.


Josh Featherstone said...

For better or worse, Brainard is a true businessman. If you talk to him, you understand that he looks at nearly all aspects of his job from a business point of view.

The good side of that is that his talking points may be legitimate.

The down side is it means he's smart enough that they may not be.

Had Enough Indy? said...

It is also interesting that the amount of money spent on Brainard's travel is somehow known, while Ballard's globetrotting costs remain a mystery.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It is certainly more transparent, Pat, when Brainard's travels are paid by the city than outside groups. The story also indicates that many of his trips are paid by others; those are not disclosed, which I believe they should be. None of Ballard's overseas travel expenditures are disclosed, even though they are paid for by a city-funded nonprofit, Develop Indy. As I've noted previously, this allows Ballard to solicit donations from his pay-to-play contractor friends to pay for the trips and, in turn, allow them to accompany him on the trips to curry favor with him. It's just another form of bribery as far as I'm concerned. The media refuses to play any watchdog role and call him out on this unseemly practice. The Indiana legislature should pass an ethics law that forces all elected officials to disclose far more than they are currently disclosing. As it is, the financial disclosure statements our public officials file annually are totally useless.