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Will town offices remain separate?


Clerk-treasurer ordinance raises questions, but talks begin of another referendum



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Schoonover

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Howard (click for larger version)
April 16, 2013 | 02:59 PM
BLOOMFIELD — Did the outcome of the town's April 2 referendum election undo the combination of the clerk and treasurer offices?

On the phone Monday, Town Clerk Cindy Howard said she doesn't know.

By a vote at a special town meeting, the combined clerk-treasurer office was created.

But with voters denying the April 2 referendum to change this combined office from elected to appointed, a town ordinance may indicate those offices won't be combined.

At a special Nov. 30 town meeting, on a vote of 7-1, residents decided to combine those offices, effective April 2015. The reason it wouldn't take effect until then is the town treasurer is an elected position, and it came up for re-election prior to the town meeting.

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With one of the two offices being elected, that would have meant whoever becomes clerk-treasurer would need to be the winner of an election.

Town officials sought to change this, so it adopted Ordinance 2012-O-1082, "an ordinance to combine the office of town clerk and town treasurer, and to change same from an elected position to one appointed" by the board.

By law, town voters must approve a referendum to make such a change.

The April 2 referendum asked, "Shall the person holding the combined office of town clerk and town treasurer in the town of Bloomfield be appointed by the town board?" They said no, on a vote of 60-40.

Which still seems pretty cut and dried, except the ordinance also states that combining the office and making it appointed it "is subject to approval by the town electors in a referendum."

So, did the April 2 vote actually nullify what town voters did Nov. 30?

Howard said she doesn't know, but the ordinance should be reviewed by whoever becomes the new attorney.

Last week, the board interviewed candidates for the job. She said the town board was expected to discuss hiring one to replace former attorney Brian Schuk at a meeting Tuesday after press time.

Meanwhile, on the phone Monday, Town Chairman Dan Schoonover said that the board will likely try to put forth another referendum in spring 2014.

The question will be the same, he said, but town officials will try to better explain themselves on this next go-around at the polls.

However, as of this time, there has been no official action to put forth another referendum to town voters.

"I firmly believe that people didn't understand what we were looking for and why," Schoonover said. "Maybe it was that poorly worded on the ballot."

He said he believes the primary reason why the April 2 referendum didn't go as he had hoped is because voters were confused.

"I'll take the blame for that," Schoonover said.

Why they want an appointed clerk-treasurer

Schoonover said he wants to see the clerk and treasurer offices combined in order to reduce duplication of services and to save money.

Take Howard, for example.

Although she also is the clerk-treasurer of the village of Bloomfield, the town pays her $350 a month for being the town clerk. Recently, the board appointed her deputy treasurer — an extra $150 a month.

Her total annual town salary is $6,000.

"It would be really difficult to find someone to do that," Howard said, adding that she's already working for the village in the same office. "The town can't afford to be paying a high salary to get this job done."

So why make the proposed clerk-treasurer position an appointed one?

To ensure someone qualified does the job, Schoonover said.

"I don't think people realize what a technical, highly trained position this is," he said. "It could take at least two years to fully train someone well."

In an email April 10, Howard said an elected official who is unable to do the job may create other expenditures for the town.

It "may be forced to hire additional workers, an accounting firm, and/or pay for repeated training and education programs as new officials are elected into office," she said.

"In doing so, the town would be forced into cutting other budgeted expenditures or seeking a loan to pay for these additional expenditures directly related to the clerk-treasurer's office … The bottom line is finances," Howard said.

Schoonover and Howard said people can call them for more information.

Schoonover's cell phone is (262) 903-5669. Howard's line is (262) 279-6039.

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