Town Clerk Working-to-Rule

By S.D. Plissken | December 6, 2018

At the most recent Milton BOS meeting, the “Financial Policy Regarding Town Deposits” agenda item turned out to be much more involved than simply raising the ceiling on amounts of cash that may be held in town hall.

To set the scene, the Town Clerk had earlier in the year sought to expand the hours of her assistant. This came up during the departmental budget reviews. The BOS seemed about to wave this expansion through, as they usually do with nearly all additional expenses, but stopped at the brink. They appeared to realize finally that they had already spent like drunken sailors. They drew back from downing this last tankard.

At this meeting, the Town Administrator explained that the Town Clerk had notified the BOS, and the Town Treasurer that, due to budgetary constraints, she found herself unable to continue to be the agent and central repository for all of the Town’s financial transactions. She had “involved” the Town Treasurer, who was called to explain the issue.

Chairman Thibeault: Next up, Financial Policy Regarding Town Deposits. Heather?

Administrator Thibodeau: I believe the board got an e-mail about the Town Clerk wished to change the plan of several deposits, and she involved MacKenzie [Campbell], our Treasurer, who is here tonight, and she really wanted him to handle this discussion with the board. So, he’s here to talk about it a little bit more. I’ve also given you and I guess you’ve already gotten that and made copies of the plan that’s in place in our current financial policy. We really need to have a plan as to where go from here. Both MacKenzie and I have looked into this, extensively. We need the board’s directive as to what we need to do. And, so, I would ask that MacKenzie come forward and help us with this discussion. Basically, we have the policy in place is one central depository for the Town now. All departments bring all deposits and that is the Town [process]. And then the Treasurer handles … has handled the deposits from there …  how they get to the bank. Our auditor, our attorney, and everybody is in agreement with what needs to happen, but MacKenzie …

Treasurer Campbell: Essentially, the way it is set up right now is that most of the Town monies flow through, in and out, of the Town Clerk’s office. They come into the office through our department heads and our departments. So, monies – deposits – coming in have to go through the Town Clerk, where they are recorded, and set up for transfer, which I check. At that point I transfer that money from an escrow opportunity, from a holding escrow, to a distributary escrow. Some of these escrows you may have heard of, or know off the top of your head, you know, Rec. Revolving, etc. The Town Clerk has since requested to not to perform these duties, saying that it’s beyond her budgetary constraints. Personally, it’s something that I disagree with – moving a depository location. That’s going to yield unnecessary risk, time, money, constraints to the Town. I’ve confirmed this through our financial partners, TD Bank. They’ve suggested as well looking at other Towns. Pretty much every other Town in the State has this flowing through their Clerk’s office.

Thibodeau: Our financial advisor …

Campbell: Our financial advisor is concerned about this move as well. She’d prefer [our not moving this] out of the Clerk’s office, especially where we just have it set it up this year. It’s really full that way, ultimately. Everything is properly recorded the way it is now. And it’s a change I would not suggest moving forward with. The previous policy was enacted by a previous board. So, I don’t know what power we have to change it.

Thibeault: Alright, so, I guess …

Campbell: The power is with them …

Thibeault: I guess I have a question then … if the other board members are alright with that. So, I get our policy … I guess I’m confused between the e-mail I’ve received, from the Town Clerk, and the policy. So, the e-mail – if I understand this correctly, correct me if I’m wrong – we have two issues here. One issue is the actual delegation of the deposits, …

Campbell: Correct.

Thibeault: Which is bringing the money to the bank, …

Campbell: Correct.

Thibeault: And then where the money is going to be deposited  and how …

Campbell: We don’t have a problem with taking up more of that … depository … bringing it to the bank. There’s never been an issue there. Simply contact myself and I delegate the authority. Make sure that happens. Today, for example, our deputy took it.

Thibeault: So, in the email, the way I’m reading this, it’s basically say that the Town Clerk no longer wants to do the deposits. It doesn’t say anything about actually taking the money in the office. But, I … obviously, conversations you guys have had with the Town Clerk that’s …

Campbell: She hasn’t identified to me particularly … anything other than actually bringing the money to the bank, which there is an issue.

Selectman Lucier: My interpretation was that was the issue, it wasn’t, it …. so, what … give me the Reader’s Digest version.

Thibodeau: She has indicated that she doesn’t have the staffing or the time to do … to be the central depository for the town and I believe she’s ….

Campbell: Which would encompass both. Both duties.

Thibodeau: Right, both duties. And to do that … and there’s a lot of paperwork involved with that. So, that is what she has indicated to both me and to others, I believe …

Thibeault: So, part of it, essentially, is already resolved – the part of actually bringing the deposits to the bank. That could be … you can resolve that without … fairly quickly without …

Campbell: Yes. And anytime anyone is working that long, we come up with a solution …

Thibeault: And that also isn’t a concern with Town Counsel or anybody else you guys have spoken with.

Thibodeau: We can make sure that person is bonded. His deputy … and somebody he has … it has to be in writing …

Campbell: It has to be a bonded employee.

Thibodeau: It has to be a bonded person, … and it has to be somebody he has delegated to in writing, and we have to have that on file. And eventually that has happened.

Campbell: And we have multiple safeguards in place to make sure that the money will reach the bank, even that night. So, there’s no rush to specifically have it done during the day, as long as we’re following the RSA, which is to deposit the monies once it hits $1,500.

Thibodeau: And we’re following the policies and making sure those things happen.

Thibeault: And that’s in line with our current Town policy, as well.

Campbell: Yes, the one enacted by a previous board.

Thibeault: It follows the RSA.

Thibodeau: Here’s the issue with it as of January 1st. We need make sure we have a place that Town deposits can be deposited to. If it …

Thibeault: Well, I guess I would request that the board … we need to meet with the Town Clerk.

Thibodeau: I can do it. [inaudible]. I need you to request her presence.

Campbell: It needs to be ironed out. Anything that the Town can help towards her department, as a team. We should look at, other things, you know, until the budgetary constraint is resolved. We need to be able to make sure that the money is flowing in and out of that office.

Thibeault: Okay. I’ll make the motion that we, the BOS, request that the Town Clerk be present at the next BOS meeting, so that we can discuss the Town deposits.

Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings: Seconded.

Thibeault: All in favor?

Whole BOS: Aye.

Thibeault: Obviously, I’ll ask MacKenzie to be here …

Campbell: Yes. What’s the next?

Thibodeau: The 17th.

Campbell: Excellent.

As you may see, the BOS is a bit slow to grasp what is happening. Some might say that they are almost gormless.

For those of you that have had some union experience, you will recognize immediately that the Town Clerk is engaging in a Work-to-Rule slowdown: she proposes to perform her job, according to its exact requirements, but to do nothing that might lie outside her job description, such as being the Town’s central depository.

Why might she do this? Aah, the extra “lot of paperwork,” “the staffing,” and her “budget constraints.” Think back. You would not give her the extra hours for her assistant when you reviewed her budget. Now, she feels that those “budget constraints” make it difficult, for she and her part-time assistant to do all the extras that you have “just set up this year.”

It sounds as if you “just set up” a great big new stack of Quid for the Town Clerk, but did not provide her with any Quo. Now, if her assistant had those extra hours … Well, you get the picture. Then it might be an entirely different story.

All the BOS needs to do is expand the Town Clerk’s budget, to include those hours, maybe add another insurance policy too, and expand taxes, yet again. And they will. They set this in motion when they “just set up” the extra duties. It is almost as if they cannot help themselves. It is almost as if they were feckless.

Maybe they should review what Ms. McDougall told them about cross-training.

References:

Town of Milton. (2018, December 3). BOS Meeting, December 3, 2018. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0_0zA8v7go&feature=youtu.be&t=533

Wikipedia. (2018, October 11). Work-to-Rule. Retrieved from //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work-to-rule

 

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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