One month after accepting the resignation of Elizabeth Skinner as Walden Village Treasurer, the village board appointed her immediate predecessor to the position.
Kelly A. Kelly resigned as treasurer last July to accept a higher-paying position. Now she will receive that pay increase in Walden. The village board, last week, voted 5-1 to appoint her as treasurer, with Mayor John Ramos voting no, and Trustee John Elliott absent. Moments later, by the same 5-1 vote, the board voted to set her salary at $92,500, which is $20,000 more than is currently provided in the newly-adopted village budget.
Village Manager John Revella said a budget adjustment will have to be made to accommodate Kelly, whose appointment was effective immediately, but who officially begins on June 1, the start of the new village fiscal year.
Following Skinner’s resignation in April, the village received eight applications for the position, and interviewed three of those candidates before selecting Kelly.
During her five years as treasurer, Kelly was credited with transitioning two different billing and accounting software systems to integrate all departments within the village. Kelly also implemented online bill pay for water/sewer and commercial garbage billing. In her current role, she was able to move the village off the Susceptible to Fiscal stress designation which had previously triggered an Office of the State Comptroller audit.
Skinner’s appointment was controversial from the start. It was made by the mayor and did not sit well with a number of residents who complained that it should have been a village board appointment and that the board needed to set the salary. Finally, in December, the village board voted to set the treasurer’s salary at $71,500 annually, $500 less than Kelly received in the final year. Among those who complained about the procedure was former Mayor Becky Pearson, who was elected village trustee in March.
At the April re-organization meeting, Pearson expressed apprehension on re-appointing Skinner and voted no, as did trustees Lynn Thompson and Brian Sebring. The 3-3 vote meant that the motion failed and that Skinner was still trustee, but she resigned two days later.
The former trustee addressed the board at last week’s meeting.
“The former treasurer and myself had the same qualifications for this job. She did have one on one training with her predecessor and I did not,” Skinner said. “Regardless I met my deadlines. I cleaned up unresolved issues. I played catch up. I implemented new functions and features with the software I was told was so hard to figure out and understand prior to the board telling me I needed additional training, but that’s a story. I was able to fix my mistakes, even my review had said that I met my standards, so what went wrong?”
Skinner said a consultant hired by the village to review her budget preparation work had found a $2,000 variance.
“Two thousand dollars over a $5 million budget is a .004 percent error. Point zero zero four. Is it allowable? No. That’s taxpayer dollars, but is it understandable? Absolutely.”
Skinner said she was set up to fail.
“During the April 5 re-org meeting you will hear trustee Pearson say she didn’t know me, what happened the night before (during a budget work session) made her uncomfortable and she heard not nice things about me and voted me out,” Skinner said. “But so did Trustee Thompson and so did Trustee Sebring. What’s not on record is that Trustee Elliott was also going to vote no. And it became apparent at that time to myself, that this was not about my qualifications. This was a chess move and if they didn’t vote me out now, they would not be able to get rid of me soon thereafter because they would not have cause to do so. According to the village attorney, whether it was a 3-3 vote or a 4-3 vote, I was obligated to stay and fulfill my position until I was replaced. So ultimately, I resigned. During the April 19 meeting, Trustee Pearson, and I quote, said ‘If things were right, then people don’t need to resign.’ How dare you imply that my resignation had anything to do with an admission of wrongdoing.”
Several trustees took the time to thank Skinner at the end of the evening.
“I appreciate you personally, and everything that you did,” said Deputy Mayor Willie Carley. “I believe you did your best.”
“I want to echo that also,” said Trustee Patricia Maher. “You did your best.”
The mayor had the final say.
“Ms Skinner,” Ramos said, “I feel that I failed you.”