Audit questions whether nearly $300000 illegally moved for electric cars – Indianapolis Star
Marion County Auditor Julie Voorhies said an internal financial review indicates that Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration may have illegally moved hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city’s storm water fund to pay for its new electric fleet of cars.
Voorhies, a Democrat, released a letter Tuesday that said an internal audit shows the Republican mayor’s administration may have moved about $293,000 slated for the storm drain fund, without council approval, to pay for the “Freedom Fleet,” 425 plug-in sedans for city employees.
Ballard has said the electric-car program will save the city 2.2 million gallons of gas over the next decade, but he has clashed with the City-County Council’s Public Safety Committee over whether they are fit for use by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
The City-County Council also has raised concerns that the cost will be millions of dollars more than the mayor has said. A spokesperson for Ballard’s office did not immediately respond to the audit’s findings.
In response to the latest allegations and continued fighting between the two sides, Vision Fleet CEO Michael Brylawski, head of the company providing the electric fleet, is questioning whether or not his company can finished what it started one year ago.
“We want to solve problems and foster innovation that can be replicated in other fleets across the nation, and we are growing increasingly concerned about our ability to continue that work in Indianapolis,” Brylawski said in a statement.
Council member Zach Adamson, a Democrat representing District 16, said the mayor’s administration moved the funds without council approval but said the question remains whether that violates state law.
Adamson, though, said he is upset regardless by what he sees as an effort by the administration to circumvent the proper channels for spending money.
“When you spend resources, there needs to be oversight from the people, which is the council,” Adamson said.
Voorhies cited a statute that says storm water funds can’t be diverted for uses other than for the purposes of the Marion County Stormwater Management District.
The city will pay California-based Vision Fleet about $32 million to rent and maintain the cars, as well as manage the city’s vehicle usage for peak fuel efficiency, the Star has reported.
In a statement released Tuesday by Brylawski, he said that the company has always “acted in good faith and in compliance with all laws regarding this contract.”
To date, Vision Fleet has been paid back $1.5 million of their $9 million investment to modernize the city’s fleet, Brylawski said. He added that the company is working with stakeholders to address concerns.
“It’s worth noting, however, that we are not politicians, and we would be grateful if those engaged in that fight would stop long enough to have a conversation about what needs to be addressed and how we can work together,” Brylawski said in the statement. “This political fight is unfairly defaming our company and its reputation and imperiling a successful program.
Voorhies said her office began the audit at the request of the Democrat-controlled council, which wanted a breakdown of payments for the electric car program.
The audit found that the administration used thousands appropriated for storm drains to help pay for the cars without first going through the council for approval to move the money, she said.
“Apparently (the money) came out of the storm water fund with no explanation,” Voorhies said.
Voorhies said state law requires the city to get council approval when re-appropriating storm water money.
She said she plans to seek an outside audit, either by a private company or the Indiana State Board of Accounts, to confirm the review.
Voorhies said it is unclear what the recourse is if it is determined the money was moved illegally.
Star reporters Brian Eason and John Tuohy contributed to this article. Call Star reporter Madeline Buckley at (317) 444-6083. Follow her on Twitter: @Mabuckley88.