Six-term Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, Jim Brainard crashed a city-leased car on December 15th. News of the incident has only emerged recently.
It is Brainard’s second accident involving a city-leased vehicle in two years, and his third since becoming mayor of the Indianapolis suburb in 1996.
Jim Brainard makes an unfortunate U-turn
Driving a leased 2017 Ford Fusion, Brainard was giving a tour of Carmel to a film crew on December 15th. As he attempted to make a U-turn his front bumper crashed into the passenger door of a Chevrolet Tracker travelling in the same direction.
According to a statement given in a police report by one of Brainard’s passengers, the Tracker was attempting to pass Brainard “very fast” on the left when the U-turn was attempted.
No one was injured in the accident. The Fusion was towed from the scene and is expected to require over $5,000 in repairs. Brainard voluntarily submitted to a blood alcohol test, and was found to have no alcohol in his system.
According to Carmel spokesperson Dan McFeely, Mayor Brainard believes he was not at fault for the accident:
“The mayor is claiming that the (driver) ignored the double yellow line and tried to get around him. The mayor didn’t realize that he was going to speed up and try and pass him, and that’s how the accident happened. My guess is the mayor doesn’t feel he was at fault, that it was simply an accident.”
Although the driver of the Tracker spoke to Brainard after the crash, the name and phone number he provided appear to be fake. Police are now searching for the driver.
Mayor Brainard’s previous crash with no alcohol test
In April 2017 Mayor Brainard crashed another city-leased Ford Fusion. After crossing the center line into oncoming traffic, his car struck a trailer being towed by a pickup truck.
Speaking to police on the scene, Brainard said, “I don’t know, I may have slipped over. I was struggling to stay awake earlier.”
When an officer suggested the mayor needed to take a urine test, Brainard agreed. City policy mandates employees be tested following an accident that requires at least one vehicle to be towed.
Instead of taking the test promptly, and despite offers of a ride from police, Brainard decided to walk to Carmel City Hall by himself. The walk took roughly an hour.
Although the officers assumed Brainard was returning to City Hall to be tested, the urine test never took place. When asked for an explanation by reporters from RTV6 the city explained that “Elected officials are exempt from this policy, as they are not employees of the City.”
Other Jim Brainard auto accidents
Mayor Brainard’s history of damage to city-leased cars is a long one. Two months after the 2017 crash, the side of yet another Ford Fusion was scraped while the mayor was shopping. No police report was filed, and the mayor paid for the damage out of his $148,000 annual salary from the city.
In 2002 Brainard T-boned a city-leased Mercury Mountaineer into the side of a school bus. No one was injured.
Big spending Jim Brainard
It is not just with city-leased vehicles that Mayor Brainard has a habit of racking up enormous bills.
But the redevelopment has come at a high cost for the city’s credit rating, which was downgraded in 2017. The city of 91,000 residents now has an outstanding liability of nearly $1.2 billion according to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.
The city’s debt mountain became an issue in the 2015 mayoral election when fellow Republican and city council president Rick Sharp opposed Bainard’s bid for a sixth term.
“I and other members of the council have tried for six or seven years to get the mayor to adjust his thinking about debt and to change his patterns of behavior about spending and to be a little more risk-averse,” said Sharp. “We have been spectacular failures.”