State: Town Manager Used Tax Money For Tours, Hotel Stays

Cumberland Town Manager's Conference Trips Questioned

A town manager is under fire, accused of using taxpayer money for extra hotel stays and California sightseeing tours.

According to an audit recently released by the State Board of Accounts, Cumberland Town Manager Jeff Sheridan stayed four extra days and went on three tours in San Jose, Monterey, and San Francisco at the town's expense, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

Sheridan, who oversees the town of 5,500 people just east of Indianapolis, attended two out-of-state conferences in 2010 -- the American Planning Association conference in New Orleans and the International City Managers Association Annual Conference in San Jose, Calif.

Auditors also questioned whether Sheridan, who has been town manager for five years, skipped one day of the conference altogether.

"The town manager's personal conference schedule did not show conference events scheduled for (October) 20th," read the audit. "The conference dates were October 17, 2010 through October 20, 2010."

The state audit also indicated that Sheridan charged $1,139 during the New Orleans conference, but only provided documentation or receipts for half of the expenditures.

"The town's travel policy specifically states that actual expenses are to be supported by the original receipts," read the audit.

Taxpayers told 6News they were concerned about the expenditures.

"We taxpayers are tired of this type of activity," said Ron Lindsey, a Cumberland resident. "I'm not surprised when I hear of this of any facet of our government, at any level."

Sheridan did not respond to emails, so 6News showed up at Town Hall on Monday. Sheridan went into a meeting and didn't come out to answer questions.

Auditors said Sheridan told them it was common practice to arrive the day before the conference and leave the day after the conference.

Town Council member Nicole Bell declined to comment on the approval of the expenses.

"I have no response," she said.

Former Town Council President Don Engerer, who served as president when the conference travel was approved by the council, said he OK'd the expenditures because he felt the town manager could learn a lot from other officials, especially outside of the conference.

"We do not want tax dollars used for things that are not for the town purpose," said Mike Bozymski, an auditor with the State Board of Accounts. "That's why we require them to have actual receipts to document what those things are for."

Bozymski said he's noticed many communities eliminating conferences because of budget constraints, or cutting down on travel.

"Everyone's resources are limited in today's economy," Bozymski said. "Everyone needs to be a good steward."

Engerer told 6News the town manager is gathering receipts from his travel and that the council may soon require Sheridan to provide written reports on his conference experiences, adding that Sheridan provided verbal reports to council.

Sheridan is expected to attend another conference this month in Milwaukee, according to Engerer.

The International City Managers Association Annual Conference will be held Sept. 18-21 in Milwaukee and will be broadcast live on the Internet for those who cannot attend.

Current Town Council President Mark Reynold refused to meet with 6News but said that starting in January 2011, the council agreed to forgo any out-of-state travel or conferences.

"That policy remains in place as one of our belt-tightening measures," wrote Reynold, who also indicated the council still felt it important for the town manager to travel out of state. "Out-of-state conferences such as the American Planning Association (APA) national conference or the International City Managers Association (ICMA) annual conference provide a level of expertise and experience that can't be matched in central Indiana."

Taxpayers 6News spoke with said the town should re-evaluate its priorities.

"When people get in power, they tend to lose sight of what's appropriate and what's inappropriate," said Ron Lindsey, who lives in Cumberland.

It's unclear how much Sheridan's travel cost taxpayers. 6News has requested travel receipts, but the town has yet to provide them.

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