While it is known that New Palestine officials omitted half the town’s roads from its road inventory and missed out on thousands of tax dollars from the state, what isn’t known is how the issue happened and who was responsible.
A town council meeting on Feb. 1 provided few answers, however, there may be a solution to recouping some of the lost funds.
Town council president Brandee Bastin said she is examining whether the town’s insurance for errors and omissions will be beneficial and able to recoup some of the lost funds.
The issues became apparent last year when former street commissioner Stephen Pool informed the town council the town had missed out on the Community Crossings Grant from INDOT for the first time in a few years.
According to officials from INDOT, New Palestine did not claim a total of 7.8 miles along 49 streets and roads in town, and only claimed 8.4 miles of roads from 2015 through 2018.
New Palestine Town Manager David Book, who did not respond to several earlier attempts by Giant FM for comment and is out on medical leave, took the blame at the town’s December 7 meeting.
However, questions remain about who knew, when they knew and whether or not INDOT had notified town officials of the error.
Bastin said at the council meeting that she had asked Pool if he could recall getting any correspondence from INDOT.
Mallory Duncan, communications director for East Central INDOT District, confirmed to Giant FM that INDOT gave New Palestine several opportunities to catch the issue.
“INDOT annually sends out a summary of each Local Government Agency’s inventory mileage. In that summary, we requested to be notified of any changes that have occurred. The deadline for submitting changes in order to be included in the next official certified mileage report to the Auditor of the State is Dec. 31. INDOT will accept changes to the road inventory at any time throughout the year, however. It will help the town or county to review the summary right when they get it each year, and if there are differences, contact INDOT to make those changes,” Duncan told Giant FM.
Regardless, changes did not happen and nobody in the town notified INDOT of such changes.
Bastin, however, said that will be changing moving forward.
Bastin told those in attendance that she was provided a DVD by fellow council member Clint Bledsoe that featured the town’s 10-year maintenance, resurfacing and thoroughfare plan from 2011 which featured the missing roads in question.
Also, in regards to the road discussion, resident Chris Lytle asked for clarification as to whether Book was on FMLA or had a workman’s compensation claim and if him being out limits council from any disciplinary action regarding the missing roads and tax dollars.
Councilwoman Angela Fahrnow said, at the moment, Book is on leave but that does not cancel out council’s decisions relating to Book, should they have any.
Attorney Gregg Morelock said at Book’s last meeting that he asked to go on FMLA and acknowledged he knew nothing about a workman’s compensation claim.
Bastin echoed those sentiments.
“He has applied for FMLA. The disclosure that he was on workman’s compensation, it was brought to my attention it was disclosed by a relative on a public Facebook page,” she said.
Councilman Bill Niemier acknowledged there was no written request in regards to a workman’s compensation claim by Book.
“I’m not aware of anything that’s been put into writing, but, obviously, I know he’s not currently working,” Niemier said.
Bastin also confirmed that Book never put anything into writing, causing Niemier to say that if anyone looked into Book’s personnel file, they would not know the reason for the leave unless it was submitted to Tonii Pyle, the clerk-treasurer.