Harnsberger apologizes to Riverton residents for office closure there, but he won’t back down
(Lander, Wyo.) – County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger’s decision to not accept payments received at the county’s satellite office in Riverton came under discussion again today at the county commissioners weekly meeting. Unable to collect those monies for the treasurer, County Clerk Julie Freese said it makes no sense to keep that office open and it’s closing this week.
Harnsberger apologized for the inconvenience the closure is causing to Riverton-area residents in an interview after the meeting, but he said he is not changing his mind.
“I’m sorry it is inconvenient to Riverton folks, but I’ve tried hard to use other avenues to collect license plate fees and property taxes, using the mail, phone and internet,” he told County10.com.”I also accept credit cards. People who live here in Lander don’t even have to come to the courthouse.” Harnsberger said the controversy is due to the county commissioner’s denying his request for bonuses for his staff. “If they give me my money back, we’ll go back to business as usual.”
Commissioners scold treasurer
In a scathing rebuke to the county treasurer, County Commissioner Clarence Thomas said the repercussions belong to Harnsberger alone. “The county has been impacted just as the rest of Wyoming has” in a down economy, he said. “People are losing their jobs, being laid off and programs are being severely impacted by the loss of funding. People are struggling and yet we are being questioned about bonuses?”
Thomas said county officials have to work together to produce a budget everyone can live with. “We do not need to explain the issue of bonuses, people are already hurting out there. We are in hard times.” He said it was the county’s responsibility to be “conservatively correct” in setting the budget. “We need to stand by the needs and not the wants.”
His employees should be upset, treasurer asserts
Harnsberger, in the County10.com interview, said the commissioners are at fault for creating a negative connotation over his bonuses. “I want to reiterate that I will not balance my budget on the backs of eight county employees (his). There are 200 county employees and only eight of them are having their salaries cut. It is clearly unfair and biased. I’ve had the same budget for the last three years and my request was the same this year, not one penny more.”
To make up for the loss of his bonuses, which are usually given to employees at the end of the year, Harnsberger said he is taking the money allocated for a part-time person and spreading it out to his employees so they won’t lose any salary. They will, however, lose benefits and have more work to do. “Their pay is the same, but I’m not paying their Wyoming retirement (with the extra funds). My employees should be unhappy, but I haven’t heard from any of them.”
“This is all on him (Harnsberger) and I truly believe I would expect him as an elected official to act as an elected official and provide service to the people,” Thomas said. “He should understand what leadership is and not narcissistically serve himself.”
Hard feelings acknowledged
The treasurer acknowledged that there are hard feelings in the courthouse between several offices and the commission. “My relationship with Julie (the county clerk) has been damaged. She’s criticized me, but it’s not her job, I run my office the way I see fit. If she wants to keep the Riverton office open, she can. She has the money, it’s in her budget,” he said. (Freese is the county budget officer)
Freese told the commissioners she is closing the office “because there is not enough work to do there” without accepting receipts for the treasurer. “I can look at titles, issue marriage licenses and do voter registrations, but those are few and far between. She also said with the closure of the Riverton office, her workload has tripled, exchanging back and forth emails with customers trying to get business done without driving to Lander.
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