EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of many reports on the court-ordered disclosure of Fairfield Township credit card statements and what those credit card statements reveal. However, trustee Tabetha Coles has not provided receipts for credit card purchases and statements are missing.
LAFAYETTE, Ind. –Fairfield Township Administrator Tabetha Coles blamed township employees for not having itemized receipts to help understand township credit card statements that she was forced to release by court order.
The Journal & Courier requested the receipts in its September 2021 request to inspect the public records, which is the subject of litigation.
Asked about receipts on Tuesday, Coles wrote: ‘Previous staff destroyed a lot of our receipts and other documents, so they’re not even available to me.’
Former staff members objected to Coles blaming them.
“Ms. Coles is making very serious and vague accusations,” former Township employee Kelli Stump wrote in response. “Which employee(s)? What documents or receipts are missing?
“Ms. Coles is able to generate receipts by contacting vendors with purchase dates from township credit card statements.”
Teresa Meyers, who kept the books under the former administrator, worked in the township office until October 2019 – 10 months into Coles’ tenure. After repeatedly harassing Coles for statements, Coles told Meyers to do his job or leave, Meyers said last summer.
Asked to comment on Coles’ allegations that former staff members destroyed the receipts, Meyers wrote: “I don’t know which former staff member she is talking about, but it seems to me that she was the one who destroyed the receipts. received to cover his own a**!!
“It’s just ridiculous. The staff let her down, so why would they try to cover her expenses?”
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Trisha Fogleman was one of three Township employees who left work at noon in late July 2021 due to Coles’ alleged mismanagement of the office and staff.
“If previous staff had destroyed documents such as receipts, it would be a prosecutable offense,” Fogleman wrote in response to Coles’ allegations. “Since we know that Ms Coles does not hesitate to call the police for trivial matters … if such a thing had happened, the police would investigate.
“No such thing happened, and a public official who publicly slanders former employees IS subject to prosecution,” Fogleman wrote. “As things stand, I can tell you she’s stuffing receipts everywhere. Her desk is a hoarding nightmare, no wonder she misplaced them.
Taxpayer-funded dining out
Credit card statements also showed that Coles routinely charged taxpayers for purchases at bars, fast food restaurants — and once — at a local drive-thru ice cream stand.
Purchases are supposed to be limited to township business.
Coles’ purchases at the restaurant were made locally and occasionally in other cities across the state. The charges took place on weekends and weekdays. Based on the amounts charged, it appears Coles also purchased meals for others, although there is no record of who she dined with at taxpayer expense, as Coles will not produce itemized receipts.
On Feb. 19, 2019, Coles took Stump and Meyers to Center Township, Howard County, to tour that office, Stump and Meyers said when asked about the charges.
It was during this trip that Stump said Coles came up with the idea to renovate the Fairfield Township office, which she did at taxpayer expense of more than $36,000, according to the charges.
It was also during this trip that Coles spent $57.22 at Cook McDoogles, an Irish pub in Kokomo. Since there is no itemized receipt, it is not clear if alcohol was purchased.
Stump and Meyers couldn’t remember for sure.
The Journal & Courier emailed Coles on Friday asking what the catering fee was and whether she had purchased any alcoholic beverages with the fee.
She did not answer.
On April 29, Coles told WLFI News, “I have to meet people and, you know, it’s not always during work hours that I have to meet people. So I have to eat sometimes.
WLFI did not follow up asking how the ratepayers who buy his lunch are township business.
More news in Fairfield Township:Court rules Fairfield Township must return documents to J&C, effective immediately
A person from the Indiana State Board of Accounts told the Journal & Courier that townships are bound by county meal policies.
Tippecanoe County policy does not allow in-town dining and only allows dining expenses while traveling overnight outside the county.
Ever since Coles went to the Center Township tour offices on February 29, 2019, Meyers and Stump have been stuck following Coles’ plans.
Coles took the two employees with her to a Goodwill store in Kokomo, where Coles spent $27.26 of taxpayers’ money on clothes. Stump and Meyers assumed the clothes were for Coles because she tried on and bought them. She used the township credit card for purchases, according to the March 2019 statement.
Coles also bought two cups from the Goodwill store, Stump and Meyers said, noting they were for the township.
On Friday, March 8, 2019, Coles charged $39.09 at the Red Seven in downtown Lafayette.
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, Coles charged $23.45 at DT Kirby’s, a bar and restaurant in downtown Lafayette.
On Saturday, May 23, 2020, Coles spent $27.50 of taxpayers’ money at the Budges Drive-In ice cream store on North 14th Street in Lafayette.
On Saturday, October 3, 2020, Coles charged $38.56 on the township’s credit card to Arni’s. On December 16, 2020, Coles billed Arni’s $65.08 and on March 30, 2021, Coles billed Arni’s $32.39.
Credit card statements also show that Coles charged Sacred Grounds $9.02 and $38.78 on February 13, 2019 and February 7, 2020, respectively. Scared Grounds is the cafe next to the township offices.
The amounts suggest Coles’ purchases were for more than her. But Coles did not comment on that story and said Tuesday she did not have detailed receipts.
Coles defeated in the primary election
Coles will not receive a second term as a director.
Democratic primary voters have chosen to nominate Democrat Monica Casanova for their township administrator nominee in the fall.
Casanova will face April O’Brien, owner of Sacred Grounds next to the township offices.
A new law passed earlier this year prescribes a four-step process for removing rogue trustees. It starts July 1.
So far, board members have not indicated whether they support an early exit from Coles.
Contact Ron Wilkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.