Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Carmel City Attorney Billed Taxpayers More Than $17,000 For Out-Of-State Travel

Last year, a report by former Fox 59 News reporter Anne Yeager uncovered questionable reimbursements Carmel city attorney Doug Haney received from the city for overnight travel expenses to attend conferences in neighboring Indianapolis only a 30-minute drive from his home. Haney defended the expenses, claiming that he had to get up early as a presenter at the conferences and he needed the extra time to rehearse in advance. Yeager's attention was drawn to Haney's own expenses after she discovered that he and Mayor James Brainard spent more than $7,000 to hire a private investigator to investigate whether out-of-state trips taken by former Performing Art Center CEO Steven Libman involved an alleged extramarital affair with an employee Libman supervised. Libman abruptly resigned, but he later collected a $100,000 settlement from the city that Carmel city council members only recently learned about after he threatened a lawsuit over the invasion of his privacy. Brainard later ran away from earlier statements he had made questioning Libman's travel expenditures, blaming his own statements on the media after an audit cleared Libman of financial wrongdoing.

Last year's scrutiny of Haney's travel expenditures has done little to curtail his high-flying ways. Advance Indiana has discovered Carmel city records that show Haney has billed taxpayers more than $17,000 so far this year for no fewer than eight out-of-state trips to attend legal-related seminars. On a trip to Phoenix last May, Haney stayed at the Arizona Biltmore, a ritzy resort where lodging and resort fees cost $342 a night. On two of those trips, one to New York and another to Chicago, Haney spent three days attending legal conferences that offered only 5.3 and 5.4 hours of continuing legal education, or less than a full day of courses, raising questions about his need to spend three days out-of-state and billing taxpayers $65 a day per diem for time spent attending the conferences. More imporantly, Haney could have attended continuing legal education courses in Indiana at a fraction of the cost he spent criss-crossing the country--courses that would have focused specifically on Indiana law.

Carmel city records show that Haney took a 4-day trip to San Diego to attend a seminar on eminent domain in January that cost $2,407.02. In March, he took two out-of-state trips to New York and Washington. The 3-day trip to New York was for a government lawyer seminar that cost $1,014.00. A 3-day trip to Washington cost $2,388.18 for Haney to attend an employment law seminar. A month later, Haney headed back to Washington for another seminar on local government law at a cost of $2,095.45. Apparently not getting enough out his Washington employment law seminar in March, Haney headed out to Phoenix for four days to attend an employment law event put on by the law firm of Ogletree Deakins at the posh Arizona Biltmore resort at a cost of $2,776.41. In July, he headed back to the Big Apple for another 3-day trip to attend a municipal law seminar that cost $4,802.00, including conference fees. In September, determined not to be outdone by Libman on the number of trips he took to New York, Haney took his third trip of the year to attend a legal seminar on discovery at a cost of $1,646.99. In October, he spent another 3 days in Chicago attending a seminar on federal civil procedure at a cost of $512.30. In all, Haney's travel, conference fees and per diem reimbursements cost Carmel taxpayers $17,642.35 for a total of 25 travel days, or 5-work weeks. With all the frequent flyer miles Haney is racking up this year, he should have no problem traveling anywhere he wants for his vacation time for free.

Mayor Brainard is on an all-expense paid trip to Saudi Arabia courtesy of the House of Saud and unavailable for comment. Yeah, you read that correctly. A foreign government is picking up the tab for Brainard and seven other U.S. mayors to visit their country. It's an annual event. And people wonder why our elected officials are selling out our country's interests at every turn.


Unknown said...

Curious, the question was raised at Carmel Chatter as to how this cost compared to surrounding communities. Would you be able to either get that info or post how to get access to the info. Thanks

Gary R. Welsh said...

Rick, I don't have to check out the records of other communities before telling you it is highly unusual. Most governmental entities simply don't have money laying around to allow a single employee to blow this kind of money on out-of-state trips. I can't believe the council hasn't called him on the carpet for this kind of spending. Out-of-state travel by state and local government employees is always heavily scrutinized by their supervisors--unless you live somewhere like Detroit or Chicago.