Unaccounted wholesale club credit card bills raise ire in Fairfield Township
Plus, Cherry Lane about to be revamped with Purdue golf clubhouse project. Another Purdue alum headed to space. And about those campus March Madness pools.
Today’s edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project is sponsored by Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series, featuring Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ March 29 conversation with Purdue alumna Julie Wainwright, founder of The RealReal. For more details, scroll to the end of today’s edition.
This and that in a free Wednesday edition …
STILL WAITING FOR RECEIPTS IN FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP: Stop me if you’ve heard this before …
The Fairfield Township Board, wearing thin on attempts to get receipts for Trustee Taletha Coles’ spending, voted unanimously Tuesday night to reject an annual report Coles compiled for 2021 and submitted to the state. It was the same report Coles said she was ready to present in February, only to have her meeting stall out before it could get started, because two-thirds of the board did not attend.
This time, Coles didn’t show up for Tuesday night’s meeting, held at the Northend Community Center in Lafayette. Instead, she sent Cheryl Watkins, her chief deputy, to monitor the meeting and answer questions.
As a backdrop, everyone was aware that the State Board of Accounts was still working an ongoing audit to Coles’ books. It’s something the state agency started in August 2021 and stepped up in January, when officials confirmed they took Fairfield Township financial statements/ledgers, bank statements, vendor invoices to support disbursements, receipts, payroll records, board minutes, resolutions, vehicle titles and death certificates.
The township board asked repeatedly during 2021 for Coles to account for her spending. In each case, Coles told the board, in so many words, it was none of their business. The board followed with a formal public records request for receipts and assorted spending records for the past two years. Coles said in February that she’d comply once the State Board of Accounts returned the township records. (An opinion issued by Indiana’s public access counselor said nothing, including the state audit, was stopping Coles from pulling statements and sharing those records. She’s ignored that advice.)
On Tuesday night, board members weren’t so sure she was ever going to follow through, after nearly three years spent questioning how she was running the township with little power to check her. Specifically, they honed in on the number of times Coles listed that she’d covered spending with a credit card from Sam’s, a wholesale club in Lafayette.
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In the annual financial report Coles sent to the state, the Sam’s credit cards shows up with totals in five places, including $14,625 in the township’s rainy day fund and $21,385 marked under “services and charges.” In all, the township put $41,160 on the Sam’s card.
“What for?” Perry Schnarr, township board president, asked.
Watkins assured the board that nothing illegal was happening, that part of the money likely had been spent on things for maintenance of Greenbush Cemetery and that they’ll all know what it was for “eventually.”
“We’ve been waiting three years for ‘eventually,’” Rocky Hession, a township board member, said.
Hession and Monica Casanova, another township board member, will face Coles in the May Democratic primary. The winner in that primary will face Republican April O’Brien.
Board members and those in the audience – including several candidates, both Democratic and Republican, on the May ballot – spent part of Tuesday evening picking apart the report, which they had trouble deciphering when it came to totals on township assistance on rent and utilities and specific spending line items.
For one: A $5,130 payment to Power Fitness LLC, paid for from the township’s rainy day fund. (The board tried two years in a row to cut the rainy day fund to zero.)
Watkins said it was for equipment for a wellness area for township staff members. For now, she said, it was in a garage behind the township offices on Wabash Avenue. She said Coles planned to have it set up soon and needed to get heaters for the space, first.
Records obtained and reported here in August 2021 show the Coles cut a check for $5,130 on May 21, 2021, for a truckload of kettle balls, stationary bikes, weight benches and other exercise equipment. At the time, Coles said the equipment was set up for use, except for an older piece being stored under a tarp outside the Greenbush Cemetery utility barn, “waiting for slower grass growing season to move things around.” (“Always looking out for the township employees’ health and safety,” Coles said.)
Schnarr said he’d lost all trust in Coles and believed she was cheating township taxpayers.
“You can tell her that, straight from me,” Schnarr told Watkins.
Casanova, who was appointed to the board in December, said Coles promised last month that she’d release everything when the State Board of Accounts audit was over.
“It was a declaration, so I’m hopeful she’ll do it,” Casanova said. “I guess we’ll have to see. … If she hasn’t in three years, I’m not sure we can expect much.”
NEW CLUBHOUSE, NEW CHERRY LANE AT PURDUE GOLF COURSES: Work in the next two years on what’s been named the Pete Dye Clubhouse at the Boilermaker-Birck Golf Complex will come with a redesign of Cherry Lane near Purdue’s two golf courses. On Tuesday, the executive committee of Purdue’s Board of Trustees agreed to have Purdue Research Foundation – a development arm of the university – lead the project, working with the university and the city of West Lafayette. All totaled, the project, still in design phases for the road and clubhouse, will be between $20 million and $25 million, Michael Cline, Purdue’s senior vice president for administrative operations, said.
As explained to trustees during a special meeting Tuesday, Cherry Lane will bend north near the Kampen and Ackerman-Allen golf courses, cutting through what is now a parking area. Moving the road will clear the way for the new clubhouse facility on the south side of Cherry Lane. Cline said trustees will be asked later to transfer between the university and the city for right of way for the road and the clubhouse.
Purdue first announced the clubhouse project in early February, after Sam Allen, retired John Deere CEO and former Purdue golfer, and his wife, Marsha, gave PRF $20 million to get it rolling. The Allens asked Purdue to name the clubhouse for Dye, who designed Purdue’s courses and others across the country. At the time, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said he expected the clubhouse would be a feature the community, beyond golfers, would use.
The project is expected to take two years.
ANOTHER BOILERMAKER HEADING TO SPACE: Pete Davidson, comedian and “Saturday Night Live” cast member, got the headlines when Blue Origin announced its next passenger list for its fourth human flight into the lower reaches of space, 62 miles above Earth, scheduled for March 23.
But if the names Marc and Sharon Hagle, two of five other customers lined up to be on the flight, sound familiar, they should. Their names will be on the Hagle Hall, the new, $20 million home of the Purdue Bands and Orchestras going up at the corner of Third and Russell streets. Their $10 million lead gift got the project going.
Marc Hagle, president and CEO of Tricor International, a residential and commercial property development group in Florida, graduated with a bachelor’s from Purdue in 1971 and a master’s in 1972. He’ll join 27 other Purdue grads who have gone into space.
Sharon Hagle, a Morris Harvey College graduate, is founder of SpacekidsGlobal that focuses on getting elementary students interested in space travel and STEM fields.
MARCH MADNESS OFFICE POOL ON CAMPUS: Since Purdue instituted a ban in 2019 on students, faculty, staff and others tied to the university from sports betting when the Boilers are playing, no one has been called out – or caught – putting Purdue into a parlay.
Tim Doty, a Purdue spokesman, said the university’s ethics and compliance office and legal office haven’t had alleged violations filed during those three years.
One heads up, this week in particular heading toward noon tipoff on Thursday: The policy still includes March Madness brackets if they include prizes.
Purdue was among the first universities in the country to limit wagering on the school’s games after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1992 federal law banning commercial sports wagering in most states. By September 2019, Indiana started taking legal sports wagers at casinos, followed by bets on mobile apps in October that year. (You know the rest of the story if you watch even an hour of television, with sports betting sites dominating the commercial space.)
At the time, Purdue President Mitch Daniels called the policy one of a “general sense of value,” rather than looking to crackdown on campus. The idea, in part, was to protect Purdue’s student-athletes from real or perceived pressure from their peers and campus employees.
The policy included friendly bets as well as legal casino-based bets. As for this week, an FAQ kept with the policy spells out what’s cool and not cool, according to the university, when it comes to participating in a March Madness bracket pool: From the site:
“If you are not required to pay anything to participate in the bracket pool, you can participate and may accept any prize awarded to you for winning. However, if you pay something to participate, that is illegal in Indiana and is, therefore, prohibited.”
SENATE VOTES FOR PERMANENT DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: Didn’t we just talk about this? Days after the country moved clocks forward one hour for the return to daylight saving time, the U.S. Senate vote to make the move permanent at some point. As it heads to the U.S. House, here’s the background on the measure.
Thanks to the Presidential Lecture Series for sponsoring today’s edition. Despite setbacks, Purdue alumna Julie Wainwright persisted to create the luxury resale giant The RealReal. Join the conversation alongside Purdue President Mitch Daniels in person or online at 6 p.m. March 29.
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