Commissioners say no to Harnsberger’s budget proposal

Fremont County Commissioners. From left: Clarence Thomas, Larry Allen, Travis Becker, Jennifer McCarty and Ray Price

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commissioners again rebuked County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger for trying to shuffle salaries in his department  before he leaves office at the end of this year. The Treasurer, who has been chastised many times in the past for giving bonuses against commission wishes, this time sought to take $500 from several newer employee’s salary raise of $1,200 and shift it to another and longer-term employee.

“The commission gave a $1,200 increase to all employees (and part time benefited staff), and there are a couple (of my employees) I had just hired over the past couple months and I wanted to give them a lesser increase,” Harnsberger told County10.com, “to benefit another employee. “Her salary needed to be bumped up a bit to be competitive.  It basically would amount to $120 more per year on her net, but the commission disagreed with that, even though it was legally appropriated in my budget and I have plenty of money to do that.”  Harnsberger also said he had “another lady who helps us 270 hours a year on our audit, and I wanted to give her just over $200 total.”

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“This board has made a decision to stay where we are on the budget, and we’re not backing off of that,” Chairman Travis Becker said during the meeting. “I have issues with (Harnsberger) messing with salaries and moving things around after we’ve approved them. That would change the budget quite considerably and it is disappointing that this is happening.”

County Clerk Julie Freese, who  is the county’s  budget officer, said she informed Harnsberger via email that she would not make the change he requested until the commission had a chance to review it. The board, minus Vice-chair Larry Allen, unanimously voted to deny the treasurer’s plan. Freese said the budget comes around only once a year and this year’s budget has been adopted. “I am saddened that an elected official has tried to monkey with that,” she said.

Becker said that every elected official was part of the budget preparation process and had agreed to abide by the new budget, “Every one.”

“I’m not making the change,” Harnsberger told County10 after the meeting. “Whatever the commissioners decided that is what I’ll do.”

On the philosophical side, Commissioner Clarence Thomas opined, “I would hope during this political and narcissistic time that elected officials serve the people, not ourselves.” He said that elected officials are expected to approve a budget that is sound, but are not elected for someone “to do their own thing.”

Harnsberger chose not to run for re-election for a sixth term but instead is seeking a spot on the commission from Lander being vacated by Ray Price.

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