March 24, 2011 —
Tusten supervisor Peg Harrison has been performing the bookkeeping duties of the town since the board voted on January 5 to eliminate the position. At the town meeting on March 14, Harrison said it is a “conflict” for her to continue to act as the bookkeeper, and asked the board to re-establish the position of town bookkeeper so that she could move to define the job and fill it. She said the job would not require more than 15 hours of work per week.
But lawmaker Carol Wingert, who has clashed repeatedly with Harrison since the hours of the position were cut down because of budget considerations last fall, said she was not in favor of re-establishing the position. Instead, she would like to see the town hire a comptroller. Wingert expressed the position that a comptroller would be appointed by the full town board, whereas a bookkeeper is appointed only by the supervisor.
Harrison countered that the comptroller is also appointed only by the supervisor, and she said that is how it should be, because under state law the supervisor is the town’s fiscal officer and therefore must have authority to independently hire the person who is responsible for the town’s fiscal records. In a subsequent phone conversation, Harrison told The River Reporter that while it is the responsibility of the board to create either position, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to fill it.
Wingert also said a reason to create the comptroller’s position was that the person could also serve as a receptionist. She and others have argued that because the former bookkeeper also served as receptionist, town residents are now being underserved because sometimes no one is available to answer their questions.
Harrison countered that at present the town can’t afford to have someone to fulfill both roles.
Wingert, however, pressed on and the board passed a resolution, three to one, directing the town attorney to draw up a local law that would create the position of a town comptroller who will also serve as a receptionist, the water and sewer billing clerk, and the highway department clerk.
The board will likely consider the matter at the next town meeting on April 11 at the Tusten Town Hall at 7 p.m.