In a scene near the end of the 1988 movie Working Girl, executive Katharine Parker, believes she has successfully passed off her secretary's idea (Tess McGill, played by Melanie Griffith) as her own. When Katharine is confronted by Oren Trask, the client Tess offered her idea to directly, he asks her, "How did you come up with the idea?" Katharine can only balk and is unable to explain the origin. A similar scenario is playing out right under the noses of the voting public here in Westfield.
For many years, something was amiss with the Food and Beverage Listings in Westfield. Cindy Gossard, Westfield's Incumbent Clerk-Treasurer, took it upon herself to begin speaking with the managers of the restaurants located in Greyhound Plaza only to discover that their taxes were paid to the City of Carmel, rather than the City of Westfield. After visits to Applebees, Chilis, Burger King and, the often forgotten, TGI Friday's etc., to speak with the managers of these establishments, Cindy notified the Indiana Department of Revenue and made them aware of the error. It was Cindy who started the ball rolling and by 2013 over $537,093 had already been recovered. The process of remedying the remainder of the situation was undertaken by our Enterprise Development Department. As the project manager at the time, her challenger in this year's municipal election, sets the stage today with claiming rights.
Next, let's talk about Westfield's Special Census. Paid for by the City of Westfield, it cost a pretty penny; about $600,000 from what I hear. Some in local government justify the expense by saying, "We needed to get a clear picture of our growth," but others have a different opinion. (I'll explain that opinion shortly.) To understand what's really at play, consider the difference between a clerk-treasurer and controller. The clerk-treasurer's office is an elected position and City Controller is an appointed position.
The clerk treasurer's challenger, Westfield's Financial Strategist, has worked closely with our Director of Enterprise Development, and rumor has it that both of them have represented themselves as Controllers for the City of Westfield in the past. If the administration wants to control the narrative on city finances, do you think they would choose to rely on another elected official, who's job is specifically outlined by Indiana Code (without projecting or planning), or an appointed employee closely aligned with their own secretive operation?
What's the census have to do with it? Westfield is currently a 3rd-Class city. Getting an accurate count means the possibility of appointing a controller. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, the fine print of the law governing the decision means that Westfield has to wait until a decennial census (the census performed every ten years) to even consider the change to a 2nd-Class City. With Council approval, the Clerk-Treasurer's job would be split into two positions: an elected clerk for administrative tasks and a controller appointed by the mayor to handle finances.
Cindy Gossard's challenger has made assertions that she can create efficiencies in the Clerk-Treasurer's duties and relieve the City of her position while she performs both jobs. Maybe she's heard the same rumors I have and is counting on 2nd-Class City status and those split role positions mentioned in the previous paragraph between her and the Enterprise Development Director as Controller.
Cindy Gossard has 26 years of experience in municipal finance and any public document is easily accessed or obtained through her office. Many of us feel that transparency is problematic at the administration level and the Clerk-Treasurer's position is not governed by them. The title is one which creates a system of checks and balances within our municipality and the waters need not be muddied by someone else who's busy manipulating numbers in a separate software system. Just last week, the challenger stated that Westfield's total debt is $141 Million-dollars after a Council candidate stated it as north of $200 Million. The taxpayer's shouldn't have to hear the old "I'll have to check my files" routine. It wasn't enough to save Katherine Parker's job (Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl). The voters can and will vote on May 7th and I sure hope it's for Cindy Gossard!
A note about the author: Marla Ailor is a 20-year resident of Westfield Washington Township, in addition to being a wife, mother and student. She ran for Township Trustee in the 2018 GOP Primary and lost to the incumbent. In that same year, she joined several other like-minded HamCo on the board of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County PAC.