Zionsville City Council members say accounting software hinders ability to conduct financial business

The Zionsville City Council is struggling to carry out its duties due to discrepancies in city finances, according to council members.

Council Chairman Jason Plunkett said the discrepancies are caused by OpenGov software, a financial reporting system. The city started using the software in 2021 after voting to transition to OpenGov in 2020.

Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron told council members that the implementation of OpenGov was hampered by “unexpected and time-consuming challenges” during an April 18 council meeting. She acknowledged that her administration had made mistakes, such as not going through a request for proposals process for the software.

After the April 18 meeting, Westfield Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard told Zionsville City Council members that if anyone from Zionsville had contacted Westfield about using OpenGov, she would have advised them against it. .

The administration tried to use OpenGov and because of all the problems my office refused to use it,” Gossard said in an email obtained by Current. “The OpenGov numbers never matched our month-end/year-end financial reports.”

The Zionsville City Council was unable to approve the claims at a meeting in June because members were unsure of the true balances of the city’s financial accounts.

“OpenGov appears unable to produce basic reports reconciling our counts,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett said city council members are concerned about the issues because the city must meet state reporting requirements for budgeting.

“We want to make sure we’re all compliant there,” Plunkett said. “To date, we have still not received accurate financial reports. I think we are in a situation where it is difficult to deal with complaints consistently because we do not have this information available to us.

Plunkett said previously budgeted items aren’t as much of a concern as appropriations or new requests.

“If it’s beyond what was originally planned, we don’t know if we have the money available to do it,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett said OpenGov is showing an amount in some city accounts that isn’t accurate, so the council can’t rely on those numbers when approving claims or other requests.

“The information provided to us, specific to fund balances over the past two months, showed discrepancies in things like payroll account,” Plunkett said. “He had shown a deficit or something of that nature, and we were told they were still working to find out why it was showing a deficit. I don’t understand why we should work to find out. It looks like some financial software we paid for should be able to provide this information.

“It would be like paying your bills monthly without knowing how much money you have in the bank. You assume you have cash available, but unknowingly it makes us a little uncomfortable not knowing exactly how much cash we have.

City officials declined an interview request from Current Publishing, saying the city was in “legal talks” regarding OpenGov. Plunkett said he was not aware of any litigation between the city and OpenGov.

Plunkett said Styron is the only member of city government with the ability to sign contracts.

“So if the mayor wanted another finance company, they have the ability to do that,” Plunkett said. “I anticipate she will because of what we’re dealing with now.”

Plunkett said he’s concerned the administration is only now addressing OpenGov’s problems, noting that the problems have been going on for nearly two years.

Plunkett said he told Styron he supported hiring additional staff in the finance department if needed. He said he supported hiring other employees or an outside accounting firm to staff the department.

“I asked for a staffing plan for the finance department, so we know how many people we need on staff,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett said he did not receive the staffing plan.

“City Council is supportive of getting the right staff so we can have accurate financials so we can do our job,” Plunkett said.

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