CARMEL, Ind. -- Carmel city officials say there is no record of Mayor Jim Brainard taking a drug or alcohol test after he crashed a city vehicle in April. They also say – despite the city’s own employee alcohol policy – that he didn’t have to.
On April 20, Brainard crossed the center line and crashed his city vehicle into a trailer while driving on 3rd Avenue Southwest.
The mayor told responding officers that he thought he may have fallen asleep, and that he’d been “struggling to stay awake earlier.”
After checking to make sure he wasn’t injured, the officers offered to give Brainard a ride back to city hall. He declined multiple times, saying instead that he would walk back.
One of the officers, Carmel Police Lt. Adam Miller, was wearing a wireless microphone that captured the conversation:
Lt. Miller: “Mayor, how are you doing? You alright?”
Brainard: “I’m fine, thank you. I don’t know, I may have slipped over. I was struggling to stay awake earlier. But I don’t think so. Maybe.”
Lt. Miller: “As far as the whole testing process and everything, do you just want to do that through HR? Or do you want us to help you with that? How do you want to handle that?”
Brainard: “Oh, do I need to be tested? Yeah, I do, don't I?”
Lt. Miller: “Because it is a tow-away.”
Lt. Miller: “If we’re going to tow it.”
Brainard: “Yeah, sure.”
Carmel’s drug and alcohol testing policy requires city employees driving city-owned vehicles to take a post-crash test as soon as possible if one ore more of the vehicles involved “incur disabling damage and must be transported away from the accident scene by a tow truck.”
Based on the conversation caught by Miller’s mic, the officers thought Brainard was on his way to do just that.
Officer 1: “He’s walking back to City Hall to talk to Barb so he can go get his pee test.”
Officer 2: “OK good.”
Officer 1: “I know, he’s going to have to go get tested.”
The official report for the incident lists fatigue as a contributing factor to the crash. The boxes for drug and alcohol testing were left blank.
Following months of records requests and digging through crash reports, dash cam video and city policies, Call 6 Investigates found no evidence that the mayor ever submitted to a drug or alcohol test following the crash.
Call 6 Investigates specifically asked the city for any communications, invoices or proof that the mayor followed Carmel’s drug and alcohol testing policy and received the following response: “The city has identified no records that are responsive to your request.”
The city declined a request for an interview with Brainard, but was willing to answer questions via email.
Our first question: Why did the mayor fall asleep while driving?
“The mayor was very tired, having worked several long days in a row,” wrote Nancy Heck, director of community relations and economic development for the city of Carmel. “He had been in downtown Indianapolis for an early morning event and had not had a break while on his way to his next event.”
And about the mayor’s apparent acknowledgement that he might have to take a post-crash alcohol and drug test?
“The mayor, when talking to the police, said he understood he may have to take a test, but he also knew he had a speech to give at the historical society and he did not want to cancel at the last minute,” Heck wrote.
Heck also said that, despite the wording of the city’s employee drug and alcohol policy, the mayor is exempt from the post-crash testing requirement because he is an elected official.
Call 6 Investigates went through the city’s employee handbook and drug and alcohol testing policy and could not find any language exempting elected officials from it. Heck acknowledged that there is no language specifically exempting elected officials, but said they are, nevertheless, exempted.
“Elected officials are not employees. That’s not a policy, it’s just a fact,” Heck wrote. “They are not hired by the City. They are elected by the residents of Carmel.”
Heck said Brainard did in fact meet with officials in the HR department following the crash, but that he did not take a drug or alcohol test. She said the mayor had not had any alcohol on the day of the crash.
Call 6 Investigates was able to confirm that Brainard did keep his appointment to speak at the Carmel Clay Historical Society less than an hour after the crash.
The other driver involved in the crash was cited for driving without a license and driving without insurance. No injuries were reported by either party.
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