by Marissa Lorenz
This week, Grand County Commissioners discussed options and heard one proposal for how to appoint a County Treasurer, given the recent resignation of long-time elected official Christina Whitmer, who has named July 2 as her last day in office.
Commissioner Rich Cimino proposed taking applications for the position and appointing someone by mid June, in order to allow as much overlap as possible with Ms. Whitmer still in office. He had previously expressed a desire to appoint someone from the Republican party, calling it “the will of the voters– in 2018, othey did elect from a certain party. I ’m leaning towards appointing a and to person from the same party.”
Ms. Whitmer is a registered Claire Republican, but ran unopposed in the last few elections. Teri Tanton, Grand County’s Deputy Treasurer and Chief Deputy Public Trustee for the past 16 years, is a registered Democrat.
Although perhaps counter-intuitive, Cimino’s preference seemed to discount Tanton from the possible appointment to the position, an appointment that will only be in place for four months, from Ms. Whitmer’s July 2 departure until the general election in November, when candidates will be placed before the voters.
As a possible solution, Tanton and Ranette Bakke, Treasury Coordinator and Deputy Public Trustee for the past 16 years and a registered Republican, appeared before the Board to propose that they fill the temporary vacancy as co-Treasurers/Public Trustees.
They read aloud their written proposal which stated, “In addition to our normal salaries, with regards to the additional responsibilities and efforts that will be required, we will accept an equal splitting of the Treasurer’s/Public Trustee’s standard salary. This is what the Board of County Commissioners implemented in the accounting office for interim Financial Director.
This will allow us to provide continued stability and efficiency to the county and our community and help to create a smooth transition through the process. We feel that with this proposal we can fulfill the obligations of the Grand County Treasurer’s/Public Trustee’s office and the needs of the citizens, the county and its Government.
In conclusion, we feel that as co-Treasurers/Public Trustees, we will and can provide a seamless transition through the next election and continue to maintain the integrity and expectations of the Grand County Treasurer’s /Public Trustee’s office and will allow the citizens of Grand County to choose the next Treasurer/Public Trustee.”
The position of County Treasurer is regulated by statute and Commissioners were uncertain if responsibilities and salary could be divided, as proposed. They went into executive session with County Attorney Chris Leahy to discuss the legality of the proposal and other options.
On returning to the public meeting, Commissioner Merrit Linke emphasized the “importance for continuity in the office,” and asking, “How much time and effort do we put into appointing someone who may only be there for four months?”
Chair Kristen Manguso agreed, noting, “if the Treasurer had waited a month, we would have a 2-year appointment,” referring to the statutory rules that require an election if the resignation is more than four months from the closest election but allow for an appointment for the remainder of the term if an elected position is left vacant with less than four months to the next general election. Cimino noted that the Board had not accepted the resignation and wondered if they could ask the Treasurer to change her departure date.
After a second executive session, commissioners directed staff to draft a posting for local media and other job-search sources for the temporary appointment of Grand County Treasurer and Public Trustee. They determined to wait a week for more information gathering before deciding whether or not to publicly seek applications.
by Marissa Lorenz