The Ely Times

The Ely City Council held a special meeting on Monday to approve City Treasurer Janette Trask’s resignation. Both councilmen Kurt Carson and Tony DeFelice were absent but the remainder of council members was enough to hold a quorum.

Councilman Sam Hanson spoke first, commenting that he appreciated what Trask has done and accepted her resignation. Councilman Ernie Flangas  said, “I hate to see that resignation come before us, but for her health and what not, I think it was a decision she had to make, and I follow that.”

Trask came back to the city in March of 2017, and after just a year, Trask has decided to resign. It’s hard to say what the reasons were for her resignation, but she did speak before the council several times reading a letter or memo in the meetings record explaining that she had fixed some misappropriated funds, stressing  the city that they needed to reduce their spending and be cautious of any future spending.

City Attorney Chuck Odgers commented it’s with great loss in his mind that they were going to lose Trask. The motion was made to accept Trask’s resignation and was approved unanimously.

The only other agenda item was to review available options to fulfill a treasurer’s job duties and city staff to direct staff to pursue council’s selection.

Hanson began the discussion saying that the most efficient way would be to contract out to an accounting firm on a experimental basis.  Trask quickly spoke up, and said,  “My opinion is you should have someone in-house. I do payroll, accounts payable, which really isn’t the traditional position.

“You’re still going to have to hire someone to do that because I don’t think that an accounting firm for the logistics of it makes any sense to do that. The other part I don’t like about hiring an accounting firm, I feel like you are still going to need somebody in here that’s basically responsible to ensure that you guys are very aware,  because every year they told you guys you need to watch your spending, but that’s once a year, I’ve been in here every month that there is an issue.”

Trask continued on to explain she didn’t feel like an accounting firm would care. “It’s not emotional or personal for them, they’re an accounting firm their going to do their job, and I’m not saying their not going to do good, but their not going to care how you spend your money.”

Further discussion went on between the council and Trask on whether it would be a challenge of finding someone to fill the position, and that maybe having an accounting firm until they found somebody made sense.

City Administrator Robert  Switzer agreed on the mention of working with Hinton and Burdick. “They’d give us an option to increase or enhance their service while we go out to pursue a replacement. Their charges would be commensurate with what we’re asking them to do,” Switzer said.

He went on to explain how the city currently has a basic level of service by providing the financial statements making sure that their balanced and have bank reconciliation.

“If we wanted to move forward with that it certainly it would be wise to enhance our service a little bit initially until we have someone in there,” Switzer said.

So how much more will be spent on using an outside accounting firm?

In a recent story earlier this year in February, The Ely Times reported that the city has spent $80,000 from 2015 to February for services provided by Hinton & Burdick. The services  included the annual audit and required services such as the financial statements but there are other services they have been  providing . In under just under half of the fiscal year, $21,000 had already been paid out to them.

Flangas recommended tabling this item so the council could have further discussion. He said they needed to  look at all avenues.

Hanson felt differently though and reiterated that the issue was that they had just accepted Trask’s resignation so they needed to figure out what they were doing to do.

Odgers explained to the council that at a minimum, thy needed to decide that evening on several factors, approving having Hinton and Burdick doing the temporary stuff,  recruitment for a full time city treasurer, and offering Trask  a compensation plan of some sorts to continue doing payroll and accounts payable part-time while they go thru the recruitment process.

Flangas still wanting to table the item agreed with some of where the rest of the council was coming from but felt they needed to look at different avenue.

But the city attorney reiterated to the council that whatever process they approve was just the beginning.

Trask agreed to help part-time but also reminded the council that if that was the situation, she would need a key to the office so she could come in after hours if needed and have accessibility to her old computer and the accounts.  The council agreed to that.

Hanson made a motion to retain the services of Hinton and Burdick’s services, they they would advertise for the position,  and the motion also authorized Switzer and Odgers to negotiate with Trask a compensation plan to help  on a part-time basis until they found a replacement for her.  This was approved unanimously.

The big question is, does Hinton and Burdick need to be utilized for additional accounting related services when city personnel could be taking care of? Do they need to keep Trask part-time? Can Robert Switzer assist with these? In September 2014, Robert Switzer was originally hired on to the city as the Deputy City Clerk and his job was to handle financial situations.

He was quoted in the Ely Times in 2014 “that one of my first orders of business was to make sure all of the city’s accounts were under order.”

His concerns were accounts, human resources and budgets. His position has since been reclassified to Administrator, but his pay has also been readjusted with a few raises over the years putting his yearly pay with benefits at $115,723 according to a report of 2017’s earning from Transparent Nevada.