Town Manager Defends Conferences, Commute

Audit: Man Used Tax Money For Tours, Hotel Stays

A town manager accused of using taxpayer money for extra hotel stays and California sightseeing tours maintains he did nothing wrong.

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. During the New Orleans conference, Sheridan charged $1,139, but only provided documentation or receipts for half of the expenditures, according to the audit.

Sheridan defended his actions in an interview with 6News on Wednesday.

"The town's travel policy was followed, receipts that were required to be submitted were submitted. There were no conferences skipped, there was no unauthorized travel," he said.

Sheridan said the ICMA paid for the sightseeing tours, not Cumberland taxpayers, and claimed that he only stayed extra days in New Orleans because the conference was shortened and it was too expensive to change flights.

"The town had an unwritten policy that when traveling great distances, such as California, that you can fly in the night before the conference and leave the morning after," Sheridan said. "Because it's not written in the town's travel policy, the State Board of Accounts interpreted that as a violation."

Some have also questioned Sheridan's in-state travel expenses racked up in Sheridan's work truck, purchased for $12,000 in 2009 using taxpayer money.

Sheridan lives in Culver, 120 miles away from Cumberland. During the week, he stays in Greentown, which is 50 miles from Cumberland.

6News estimated his commute at roughly 650 miles a week. According to the town's clerk treasurer, the town has paid $5,734.65 for Sheridan's gas so far this year.

"The reason I live in Culver is when I was the town manager (of Culver), the town required I buy a home," Sheridan said, adding that when he was fired by the town, the town could not buy back his home.

Some taxpayers have questioned why the town of Cumberland should pay for Sheridan's travel expenses.

"That's wrong. There's no excuse for him doing that," said Mike Flynn, a Cumberland taxpayer and human resources manager for Shelby County government. "Taxpayers have to eat it."

Flynn analyzed the salaries for Shelbyville, Greenfield and Cumberland and found that, despite Cumberland having a quarter of the population of its neighboring cities, Sheridan makes significantly more than other officials.

Sheridan makes $79,647 a year while the mayor of Shelbyville makes $62,400 and the mayor of Greenfield makes $62,377.

"I thought it was personally obscene," Flynn said. "I think it's a travesty."

Sheridan pointed out Cumberland has only 24 employees, which is one employee for every 215 residents. He said Shelbyville has one employee for every 96 residents and Greenfield has one employee for every 107 residents.

"Our employees have to do more. I don't think many people think they're overpaid," Sheridan said.

The town council and town manager have suspended all out-of-state travel for 2011, citing budget constraints.

"We lost 10 to 12 percent of our revenue because of property tax caps last year, and we're looking at 15 percent this year," Sheridan said. "(The cuts to travel) didn't have anything to do with the quality of the training, there's just not the funds available. You have to cut somewhere."

Sheridan estimates the town has spent $12,000 annually on travel in years past.

6News has requested travel receipts, but the town has yet to provide them.

More Information:

  • Town Salary Comparisons
  • Town Response To 6News
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