Debate lingers after appointment of Walden treasurer

Posted 10/5/21

More than two months after Elizabeth A. Skinner was hired to replace Kelly A. Kelly as Walden’s Village Treasurer, debate over the appointment, and Walden’s very form of government, …

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Debate lingers after appointment of Walden treasurer

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More than two months after Elizabeth A. Skinner was hired to replace Kelly A. Kelly as Walden’s Village Treasurer, debate over the appointment, and Walden’s very form of government, continue to be a topic at village board meetings.

Skinner’s appointment was made by Mayor John Ramos who set the salary at $71,500. That appointment didn’t sit well with former mayor Becky Pearson or former village trustees Mary Ellen Matise and Brenda Adams, who have raised questions at subsequent meetings.

Pearson questioned if Walden had changed its form of government, referring to the village code, which covers appointments of officers and employees.

“Nothing has changed as far as I know,” said Pearson, who served as mayor from 2005 to 2009. She noted that Walden adopted the village manager form of government in 1962 and that a 1972 referendum to change that was defeated.

The law reads in part “ such village officers and employees as the Board of Trustees shall determine are necessary, except the village clerk, village attorney and village treasurer shall be appointment by and may be removed by the village manager, but the village manager shall report such appointment and removal to the Board of Trustees at the next meeting thereof following any such appointment or removal; the village clerk, village attorney and village treasurer shall be appointed and their salary or compensation shall be appointed and their salary or compensation fixed by the Board of Trustees.”

Village Attorney Dave Donovan addressed the issue at the September 21 village board meeting.

“This issue seems to have arisen over an appointment to fill a position and the establishment of a salary,” Donovan said, adding that the village manager never had the authority to appoint the treasurer or establish a salary.

In this case, the board had set a salary of $72,239 for Kelly, prior to the start of the current village fiscal year. That salary, he said, was assigned to the position, not the person holding the position. As the current treasurer is making less than the salary established, he said there was no need for the board to revote on that salary.

Discussion didn’t end there. At the same meeting, Trustee Lynn Thompson questioned why the village treasurer’s report was stamped “confidential” and if a document so marked could be discussed in public.

The attorney declined to answer, saying he hadn’t seen the report and therefore couldn’t comment.

Thompson persisted.

“I feel like my question is not being answered,” Thompson said. “I guess my question is why has this never been a problem before?”

Skinner was appointed Village Treasurer at the August 3 village board meeting to succeed Kelly, who resigned in July. At that meeting, Adams appeared before the board to plead for a delay in the appointment.

“I am angry and sad,” Adams said, adding that there were “only two viable applicants as of the (July) board meeting.”

“Quitting the search with just two applicants is the easy way out,” Adams said.

Skinner came to the village with a background in small business services. She formed a company that provided outsourced office services for small businesses. She also served as a volunteer treasurer of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention from 2011 to 2014.

“I strongly believe that I can use the experience that I have had from my past to help the village maintain its course,” she told the Wallkill Valley Times in August. “I understand Kelly Kelly did an awesome job as treasurer, so I’m hoping to pick up where she left off and keep things moving full steam ahead.”

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