The Zionsville Town Council is having a difficult time completing its duties because of discrepancies in the town’s finances, according to council members.
Council President Jason Plunkett said the discrepancies are caused by OpenGov software, a financial reporting system. The town began using the software in 2021 after voting to transition to OpenGov in 2020.
Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron told council members that OpenGov implementation was hampered by “unexpected, time-consuming challenges” at an April 18 council meeting. She acknowledged that her administration made mistakes, such as not going through a request for proposals process for the software.
Following the April 18 meeting, Westfield Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard told Zionsville Town Council members that if someone from Zionsville had reached out to Westfield about using OpenGov, she would have advised them against it.
The Administration tried using OpenGov and because of all the issues my office refused to use it,” Gossard stated in an email obtained by Current. “The numbers in OpenGov never matched our Month/Year End Financial reports.”
The Zionsville Town Council was unable to approve claims at a June meeting because members were unsure of the true balances in the town’s financial accounts.
“OpenGov seems to be unable to produce basic reports reconciling our accounts,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett said town council members were concerned about the issues because the town must follow state reporting requirements for budgeting.
“We want to make sure we are all in compliance there,” Plunkett said. “To date, we still haven’t received accurate financial reports. I think that we are in a spot where it’s difficult to process claims in a consistent manner because we don’t have that information available to us.”
Plunkett said previously budgeted items aren’t as large a concern as appropriations or new requests.
“If it’s above and beyond what was initially planned for, we don’t know if we have the money available to do it,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett said OpenGov shows an amount in certain town accounts that isn’t accurate, so the council can’t rely on those numbers when approving claims or other requests.
“The information we were given, specific to fund balances in the last couple months, had discrepancies in things like the payroll account,” Plunkett said. “It had showed a deficit or something to that nature, and we were told that they were still working to find out why that showed a deficit. I don’t understand why we would have to work to find that out. It seems like a finance software we have paid for should be able to provide that information.
“It would be like paying your bills on a monthly basis without knowing how much money you have in the bank. You assume you have money available, but without knowing, it makes us a little uneasy not knowing exactly how much money we have.”
Town officials declined an interview request from Current Publishing, stating the town was in “legal talks” regarding OpenGov. Plunkett said he was unaware of any litigation between the town and OpenGov.
Plunkett said Styron is the only one in town government with the ability to sign contracts.
“So, if the mayor wanted a different finance company, she has the ability to do that,” Plunkett said. “I would anticipate that she will because of what we are dealing with now.”
Plunkett said he’s concerned that the administration is just now addressing OpenGov issues, noting that the issues have been ongoing for nearly two years.
Plunkett said he has told Styron that he supports hiring additional staff in the finance department if needed. He said he supports hiring other employees or an outside accounting firm to staff the department.
“I’ve requested a staffing plan for the finance department, so we know how many folks we need on staff,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett said he hasn’t received the staffing plan.
“The town council is supportive in getting the appropriate staff so we can have accurate financial data so we can do our job,” Plunkett said.
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