IN Focus: Bribery allegations rock Carmel’s mayoral race

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CARMEL, Ind. – Hamilton County Democrats are calling for an election board investigation into whether a proposed bribe was discussed during a meeting attended by representatives for the two Republican candidates for mayor in Carmel and the head of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

“It’s been alleged that Mayor Brainard’s campaign offered a bribe to have his opponent Fred Glynn not run against him,” charged Democrat Party Chairman Joe Weingarten.

Glynn told FOX59 that at a meeting February 3, his campaign manager met with Jim Brainard’s veteran campaign consultant Allan Sutherlin and County Party Chairwoman Laura Campbell where a $140,000 bribe from the mayor’s campaign to Glynn was discussed to convince the challenger to drop out of the May 7 primary election.

“There was a guy who was supposed to be representing me in that meeting. His name is Dan Hennessey,” said Glynn. “He went to discuss polling numbers. He came back and said he saw the polling numbers. It didn’t say anything in the polling numbers but he said that they were willing to offer me $140,000 in campaign cash to not run in the mayor’s race.”

Brainard won his first race for mayor in 1995 and has been reelected ever since.

“They just said they thought their polling numbers were good. They would win anyways,” said Glynn. “(Brainard) would have to spend that money anyways in the primary so he might as well just give it to me so he wouldn’t have to deal with it, that’s what I was being told by Hennessey.”

At the time of the alleged offer, the Brainard camp was showing $142,000 cash on hand in its most recent campaign finance report while Glynn claimed $28,000 one year ago though the Hamilton County Councilor has raised $80,000 overall in his race.

Glynn said despite pressure from Hennessey, he turned down the offer to step aside only to be surprised when less than a week later his campaign manager decided to change teams.

“Six days later he asked me for a meeting,” said Glynn. “I went and met with him and he said, ‘I’m sorry but I had to do it,’ that he was going to work for them, they offered $40,000 to work for them and they’re paying it to him in four $10,000 installments.”

Hennessey refused comment when contacted by FOX59 and referred all questions to the Brainard campaign as did the mayor’s office.

Weingarten said he was disturbed that the man alleged to be the lynchpin in the supposed bribery scheme later went to work for the campaign he claimed was behind the payoff.

“It’s the opposition party’s job is where something comes up that looks shady or may be shady that it’s our responsibility to get to the truth through the proper legal authorities,” said Weingarten, “and all of a sudden the gentleman, Mr. Hennessey, is now working for Brainard so you have to ask, did Mr. Hennessey do the extortion? Was it on his part only?

“Who instituted this? Did they do it on his behalf? Did Brainard institute it?

“$140,000 seems to be a huge number for a mayor race especially and you have to wonder, what’s really going on here? Why are they talking about such a large number? What is the reason for it? How come you have $140,000 on the table if that’s true?”

Brainard campaign manager Laken Sisco said neither she nor the mayor were aware before or immediately after the February 3 meeting that a bribe was allegedly discussed.

“Despite the accusations coming from the Mayor’s political opponents, neither him or myself, were ever in the meeting.  Unfortunately this is politics at its worst but fortunately Carmel’s voters are smart enough to see right through it.”

Laken said Hennessey works for a consulting firm, “that the campaign has had a long standing relationship with.”

That firm would be Tangent Resources which lists Sutherlin as its president.

Sutherlin was unavailable for comment though he was quoted in the Current in Carmel last week that Hennessey was the origin of the alleged bribery offer.

“I never saw a formal check in front of me,” said Glynn who did not file a complaint or police report about the bribe attempt allegedly from the Brainard camp brought to him by Hennessy. “They’re saying that he came to them and tried to get $140,000 out of them and they’re saying they were blown away by it, that they’re appalled that he would ask, their response was to offer him a job.

“That response should tell everybody what they need to know about that.”

Democrats are asking the Hamilton County Election Board to investigate the claim and forward a report to the Hamilton County Prosecutor who would then have the authority to assign an independent counsel to evaluate the case.

When not talking about the bribery allegations, Glynn said he would rather focus on Brainard’s plans to pay for the construction bonds of the $40 million Hotel Carmichael on a site adjacent to the Center for the Performing Arts near downtown Carmel.

“The city’s gonna have ownership interest in that hotel so if that hotel doesn’t work, not only are taxpayers out what they put out already, they’ll be on the hook for the failure of that hotel,” said Glynn who cites a recent downgrading of Carmel’s credit rating and the excessive amount of debt per capita on city residents. “It’s about $15,000 per debt per head in Carmel for people who pay taxes which is more than every other municipality combined.”

Brainard has touted the hotel as essential to bringing overnight visitors to Carmel and expanding Hamilton County’s lodging options.

The hotel’s developer, Pedcor, is expected to pay off the city’s construction debt.

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