Clerk, treasurer to become single, hired position
By Robert Cloud
Dayton citizens voted to replace two elected officials with one full-time employee at the town’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 19.
By a vote of 37-15, electors approved a resolution to eliminate the offices of town clerk and treasurer.
Judy Suhs is the current town clerk and Brenda Hewitt is the treasurer.
In April 2015, Dayton voters elected two new supervisors and a new town chairman. Only the incumbent clerk and treasurer survived the voters’ desire for a clean slate.
Suhs was elected over Sue Popham by a vote of 453-401, while Hewitt defeated Thomas Van Veen, 590-247.
Their offices will not appear on the April 2017 ballots in Dayton.
“There are 1,800 voters in the town of Dayton,” Suhs told the Waupaca County Post. “Thirty-five people made this decision. Thirty five angry, vindictive people.”
When asked about 37 votes overturning 453 votes, Town Chairman Dave Armstrong said, “It was certainly on my mind during the meeting. However, statutes allow this to happen.”
“What they did was perfectly legal, but was it right? I would say no,” Suhs said.
Armstrong said combining the two elected positions into a full-time paid position will benefit Dayton residents.
“I think it’s in the best interests of the people in the town who seem to want more office hours,” Armstrong said. “When I first took office, I would love to have had a full-time clerk there to answer questions. As time went by and I came more familiar with my work for the town, it was less of an issue.”
Suhs is at the Dayton Town Hall from 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays.
With a paid full-time position, Armstrong said the town hall could be open five days a week.
He also said the responsibilities of the combined clerk and treasurer could be expanded “as the board sees fit.”
“Right now, they cannot tell the clerk and treasurer what to do because our jobs are defined by state statute,” Suhs said. “They want to be able to tell the clerk and treasurer when they must work in the office.”
Suhs said having an elected clerk and treasurer provides checks and balances in town government.
She noted several instances where one elected official uncovered how another official was embezzling funds.
For example, Little Wolf Town Clerk Jackie Beyer discovered that then-treasurer Thomas Smith had siphoned more than $200,000 in township property taxes and from the Little Wolf Cemetery over a 15-year period.
Suhs said the state will require Dayton to have an annual audit if there are not two separate people serving as clerk and treasurer. She estimates the audit will cost about $15,000 a year.
“The state has in place a clerk and a treasurer for a reason,” Suhs said. “There are 1,255 townships (in Wisconsin) and out of that there are 101 appointed, combined clerk-treasurers.”
Armstrong said the town board will begin advertising for the position between 30 and 60 days after the annual meeting.
“We’re in the process of writing a job description,” Armstrong said.
He estimates the position will pay a salary of $31,000, plus $5,000 to $10,000 in benefits.
He said the new position will affect the 2016 budget since the person hired will need several months to learn how to do the work. The new town employee will work part time until after the April 2017 election.
“This is not a board decision, this is a decision of the electors,” Armstrong said.