Carmel city attorney faces criticism over $22,000 in travel, training expenses

Attorney stayed at high-end hotels in 2012

CARMEL, Ind. - Carmel City Attorney Doug Haney is facing criticism over his travel and training expenses.

The Call 6 Investigators have been digging through the receipts for the past few weeks and found more than $22,402 in expenses, including stays at high-end hotels.

The training and travel expenses were incurred as part of Haney’s continuing legal education, in which he receives guidance on laws and regulations.

Records show in 2012, the city spent $15,434.23 on travel expenses for Haney, such as hotel stays, air fare, ground transportation and meals.

Documents also show Carmel spent $6,968 on registration fees for the seminars.

In 2012, Haney attended 13 seminars, most of them out of state in places like San Diego, New York, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Chicago and Atlanta.

Haney spent $1,550 to stay four days at the luxury hotel Arizona Biltmore, where a conference called “2012 National Workplace Strategies” was being held.

Haney also spent $958.29 on two nights at the Hilton Times Square in New York during a seminar titled “Electronic Discovery Guidance for 2012.”

Carmel City Councilman Eric Seidensticker has some concerns about the expenses.

“I don’t think you have to go to the most expensive hotel in the area,” said Seidensticker. “It’s not his money, it’s taxpayer money.”

Seidensticker said perhaps the city should allow Haney to stay at a Holiday Inn-priced hotel, and Haney can pay for additional upgrades.

“Let’s take a look at this and see if what we’re doing makes sense in the general sense of things,” said Seidensticker. “Are we making good choices with our money and is the city benefiting?”

Former city councilman John Accetturo, who served from 2008 to 2011, said Haney’s travel has been an issue for years.

“He wasn’t around a lot, he was gone a lot,” said Accetturo. “It gives the impression that he is enjoying himself on the taxpayer’s tab.”

The Call 6 Investigators contacted similar-sized cities like Bloomington and Greenwood, as well as Indianapolis, and found each spends less than $6,000 annually on training for their in-house attorneys.

As for Carmel, Haney refused repeated requests for an on camera interview, but he did provide a statement .

“Although I do attend legal seminars that are available locally, the vast majority of those that address the issues I face are national in scope, and are held out-of-state,” wrote Haney in his statement. “I am frequently able to reduce the cost of these seminars by agreeing to speak at several of them each year and by 'bundling' multiple seminars from the same sponsor at a reduced rate."

Haney went on to say the seminars help develop organizational relationships and have resulted in his recent election to the Board of Directors of the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

“Although legal education can be expensive, it is far cheaper than the cost of erroneous legal decisions,” wrote Haney.

Carmel city council members set the budget, including travel expenses, but Seidensticker doubts they can do much about Haney’s expenses.

“You can’t micromanage everything,” said Seidensticker. “You have to trust that someone is going to make a prudent decision with regard to taxpayer dollars.”

Mayor Jim Brainard and several other council members were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Carmel's Director of Community Relations Nancy Heck sent the Call 6 Investigators an email statement defending Haney's travel, saying, "Carmel has always prided itself on staying ahead of the curve and that holds true in the area of law as well; getting the latest information first hand from experts in specific fields allows us to do that."   

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