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No go on office combo—for now

The idea of combining the county auditor and county treasurer offices was resurrected May 13 by County Councilman Bob Jarman.

“I know the idea has been considered before,” Jarman said. “I just want to find out whether the county might save money with such a change. We can leave it up to the voters to decide whether they want to do it.”

Before the meeting, in memoranda to the council, Auditor Milene Henley expressed support for combining auditor and treasurer offices and personnel, and Treasurer Jan Sears expressed unequivocal opposition. Henley is running for reelection this year; Sears is retiring.

Henley thinks combining the offices will save money - specifically, 1.5 full-time employees (the treasurer is the one). And she thinks the counter service for customers would be better. Her memorandum concludes, “I believe that operational efficiencies, enhanced customer service, and cost savings could all be gained by combining the auditor and treasurer offices under a single elected official.”

Sears maintains otherwise.

In her memorandum, Sears says, “I firmly believe that the two offices should be kept separate to insure the integrity of the offices. A system of checks and balances is critical. I do not agree that it could be handled by the auditor through technology … I don’t see how this is an issue of efficiency.”

Sears concludes, “If this were a true and sincere attempt at restructure, the auditor would request a fair and open election for the new position. This appears to be a ‘power play’ by an unchallenged incumbent elected official.”

The consolidation issue has been raised twice before. It was rejected by the Freeholders when the original Charter was proposed and by the Charter Review Committee when the charter was amended.

Council Chairman Rick Hughes said he was open to considering the idea, but he wants the council to wait until after the November election, when the council could give the idea more time and attention. His colleagues on the council agreed.

— Steve Wehrly

 

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