Ashwaubenon voters to consider clerk-treasurer referendum
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUNBEON – An advisory referendum to go before village voters April 7 will ask whether they favor switching from an elected to an appointed clerk-treasurer.
The issue was discussed Jan. 29 at an informational meeting in the Pioneer Elementary School gym.
The session was initially scheduled to discuss two referendum questions the Ashwaubenon School District will ask April 7 to seek approval for overriding the district’s state-imposed revenue limit by $730,000 annually for five years and for issuing up to $10.05 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a district-wide facility improvement program.
However, the school district allotted the village time at the beginning of the meeting to discuss the advisory referendum, prior to school staff informing the approximately 40 people in attendance about the district’s referendum questions.
Village President Mary Kardoskee and Village Manager Allison Swanson provided information about the advisory referendum.
The village board directed staff in December to put together the wording.
As drafted, the advisory referendum states: “Should the Village of Ashwaubenon charter ordinance be amended to provide for an appointed (instead of an elected) clerk-treasurer in order to allow the treasurer duties to be absorbed by current staff and ensure the most qualified candidate for the clerk position due to the training and expertise necessary to run elections and other essential administrative functions?”
The village is looking at making the switch with the possibility of Ashwaubenon’s elected clerk-treasurer, Patrick Moynihan Jr., leaving the position.
Moynihan, who was re-elected last April to a new-three year term, announced he is running this year for Brown County clerk on the Republican ticket.
He is also the county board chairman, but is not running for a new two-year term this spring as a county supervisor leading up to seeking election this fall to a four-year term as county clerk.
If elected county clerk in November, Moynihan said he will resign as village clerk-treasurer on Jan. 5, 2021.
Moynihan, who was elected Ashwaubenon’s treasurer in the spring of 2013, was appointed by the village board to also be the clerk after the elected clerk, Dawn Collins, resigned in the fall of 2014.
The board also combined the positions of clerk and treasurer into one elected clerk-treasurer position.
Though Ashwaubenon has been fortunate in the past with the person elected village clerk doing a good job, Kardoskee said it may not be the case in the future if the position remains elected.
“We think that right now with the state of the way voting is, the way government is, we really need to have the best qualified person to be the clerk, not just somebody who is (at least) 18 years old and a village resident,” she said. “Those are the only two qualifications you have to have to be clerk right now.”
Kardoskee said an elected clerk is accountable to village voters, but that wouldn’t ensure the person would show up for work and do the job properly.
However, Kardoskee said she would not want to take away the right of village residents to vote for the clerk-treasurer position unless they would favor a referendum to relinquish that right.
In light of Moynihan’s possible departure, Swanson recommended the positions of clerk and treasurer be separately appointed by the board, rather than elected, with the clerk position remaining full-time and the position of treasurer being absorbed by the finance director.
The village’s current finance director, Greg Wenholz, now serves as both the finance director and deputy treasurer.
Except for Ashwaubenon, Swanson noted all the municipal clerk and treasurer positions in the Green Bay metro area are appointed.
Should the village board amend the charter ordinance, she said it could appoint a clerk when the position would become vacant, such as if Moynihan would be elected county clerk this fall and then resign as village clerk-treasurer.
Swanson said she anticipates the village will be joining the school district for another informational meeting, while the village is planning on sending out a mailing on the advisory referendum.
Because the referendum is advisory, the board could still decide to amend the charter ordinance even if the question wouldn’t receive majority support from village voters.
This marks the second time in recent years village voters will be asked about the clerk and treasurer.
In 2013, a referendum failed to change the positions from elected to appointed.