Clerk’s office uncertainty leads to 75 percent budget cut

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) City Council on Tuesday night passed a $155 million budget for the city, a spending plan that Mayor Tom Henry touted as balanced – thanks in no small part to a 75 percent slash to the clerk’s office’s capital.

The budget passed by the council included $1.24 million in spending cuts, $414,454 from the City Clerk office’s budget alone. Council President John Crawford led the push for that cut in the wake of an electioneering scandal within the office that led to the resignation of former Clerk Sandy Kennedy earlier this month.

What’s left of the clerk’s budget will allow it to operate for three months, after which the new clerk – either current Deputy Clerk Angie Davis or Republican Lana Keesling, depending on the results of the Nov. 3 election – will have to show sufficient reform, Crawford said.

In a statement provided to NewsChannel 15 on Wednesday, Davis said she was in agreement with Crawford’s concerns.

“Councilman Crawford and other members shared my concerns about Clerk Kennedy’s budget,” Davis wrote. “Recently, I presented a plan to streamline office operations, improve efficiency, initiate new ethics guidelines, and improve services to Fort Wayne’s citizens. I’m pleased by this vote of confidence to allow me to restructure the office, set my own budget, and provide the highest quality of service to our residents. I am the only candidate with a detailed plan to do so, and I thank our Council for voting to allow me to address the budget. I plan on presenting my new budget to Council by the end of the year.”

Keesling issued a statement of her own to NewsChannel 15 on Wednesday, in which she called the vote “appropriate.”

“There will be a new city clerk on January 1. Given the recent questions surrounding the clerk’s office, I think a clean start with a new budget, from a new clerk is appropriate,” Keesling wrote. “Businesses routinely re-evaluate and review spending, processes, and organization to determine the most efficient practices. I think we should ask no less of our government. If I am elected on November 3rd, I will be ready to hit the ground running, implementing new practices and procedures to ensure that tax dollars are being spent wisely. This is a small but vital step in improving the accountability and transparency so desperately needed in the clerk’s office right now.”

The budget also included cuts to city communications of nearly $300,000; $71,202 that had gone to the assistant parking enforcement supervisor, which will be eliminated; and $100,000 from the “Bike Fort Wayne” plan and $350,000 from the city’s “Gateway” program.

The council chose not to eliminate the $160,961-a-year salary of the Public Safety Director position in the budget, a position that had been targeted by Henry.

Tuesday night, Henry released the following statement:

The balanced budget presented by my office and passed by City Council tonight continues our commitment to providing needed services to residents, neighborhoods, and businesses. The budget also reflects Fort Wayne’s position as a leader in economic development, job growth, strong neighborhoods, and quality of life amenities that make our community a destination place for families and businesses. We’ve been encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from the public about our budget that will fund 33 new firefighters, $22.8 million for neighborhood infrastructure improvements, and $3 million for investments in maintenance projects in City Parks.

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