As of now, there is no criminal investigation underway into an Evansville City Councilwoman's secret recording of a confidential meeting concerning the city's finances, according to Indiana State Police Sgt. Todd Ringle.
Although there is no criminal investigation currently underway, it doesn't rule out an investigation in the future, Sgt. Ringle said. Furthermore, Indiana State Police has been contacted by the State Board of Accounts, Sgt. Ringle said. However, Sgt. Ringle said just because ISP has been contacted, that doesn't not necessarily mean an investigation will take place.
As part of department policy, Sgt. Ringle said Indiana State Police does not identify a suspect until charges are filed.
The news comes as Evansville City Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley refuses to back down from her decision to secretly record a confidential meeting regarding the city's 2012 audit with the State Board of Accounts. City officials including three council members, City Council Attorney Scott Danks, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and representatives from the SBOA were in attendance at the March 12th meeting. Representatives from the SBOA have called for an investigation into the secret recording.
"I have worked for 23 years and I have never heard of another public official taping an exit conference and then releasing it prior to the release of the report," said State Examiner Paul Joyce.
Brinkerhoff-Riley says the public has a right to know the state of Evansville's finances and there should be no privacy in politics. On Monday, the councilwoman slammed Mayor Lloyd Winnecke for what she called unacceptable bookkeeping. Specifically, she said the city did not properly record payroll funds in 2012 by under paying pensions and over paying certain employees.
Because the audit process had not been completed, Joyce says Brinkerhoff-Riley's allegations of poor book-keeping by the Winnecke administration are irrelevant.
"Part of that process would be to determine if what the examiners have found is the final product or whether more work needs to be done," Joyce said. "Since the March 12th meeting, there has been significant changes made."
As for what those changes are, Joyce couldn't elaborate because the audit is still confidential and he says it should have stayed that way.
Brinkerhoff-Riley denies she did anything illegal or violated any ethical standards by releasing a recording of a private conversation. The councilwoman pointed out the alleged money mismanagement is in lieu of the city spending nearly $2 million on software support, hiring an extra full time employee, and spending money to hire outside accounting firms.
"I find the secret recording of the City of Evansville’s Exit Conference with the State Board of Accounts by the City Council Vice President to be irresponsible and a clear violation of trust," said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke in a prepared statement. "Furthermore, the inappropriate release of confidential state information is a breach of the state audit process, tramples the public’s confidence and puts the reputation of our great city at stake."
State Examiner Paul Joyce has encouraged the mayor's office to allow the audit process to continue, according to Winnecke's statement. As a result, Winnecke is prohibited from offering comments on specific allegations until the audit is complete. The audit is expected to be released in a few weeks, Winnecke said.
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