Posted 4/28/15 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
After the resignation of the incumbent treasurer, the Board of County Commissioners for McKenzie County decided to analyze the functions of the Treasurer’s office and examine the benefits of consolidating it with the Auditor’s office. And on April 21, the commissioners voted in favor of the combination, which will be the first time the offices have ever been combined in McKenzie County, and will take effect May 1.
“There are already several counties throughout North Dakota that have combined these offices into one,” said Ron Anderson, McKenzie County Board of Commissioners chairman. “It makes sense because with the Century Code, there are really no educational requirements or qualifications to run for Treasurer’s office. In this day and age, that’s not right. We need people who are competent and have the requirements necessary to fill that position. Now, when we appoint someone, we can set certain requirements and qualifications for that position.”
As far as the time frame goes for combining the two offices, the statute was complied with, according to McKenzie County State’s Attorney Jack Rodenbiker. Two public hearings were set and the proposed resolution was published in the paper the required two times.
At the April 7 public hearing, two community members were present, both testifying regarding their concerns over the combination of the two offices. Both individuals shared concerns over financial controls and checks and balances. One said that she believed it was in the county’s best interest to keep the offices separate. And the other spoke of a mistake having been made once with a treasurer who had embezzled in the past.
Speaking in favor of the combination was Anderson, stating how the county currently has external audits and that the present election system doesn’t allow for qualifications of the positions. Commissioner Vawnita Best had discussions with the North Dakota Association of Counties and said that their comments were that if the county could structure the office in a way that qualified people could be hired, that was the best choice. And Commissioner Kathy Skarda also spoke on having taken into consideration the checks and balances.
“We have to be audited every year,” said Anderson. “And it’s an extensive audit, so I feel that it is a good checks and balances system. And everything that comes in, like all the money, has to be cross-checked by two people.”
Currently, McKenzie County Auditor Linda Svihovec is, and has been, filling the role of Finance Manager per the plan. But the plan will allow for the option to appoint somebody else to fill that role if the auditor deems it necessary. Additionally, Brad Solberg is the Treasure Department Manager and Erica Johnsrud is the Auditor Administration Department Manager. Both will remain in those positions with the new combination plan. And those positions were put in place for a system of checks and balances.
“I think having Linda in her role once the combination is effective May 1, is great,” said Anderson. “She’s very efficient. Obviously, she held that office for a long time. It’ll be an easier transition for the next person because she’ll have it all set up.”
Svihovec was the McKenzie County Treasurer for 15 years (1995-2011), Deputy Treasurer for five years prior to that (1990-1995), and was appointed Auditor in 2011.
“I support the decision of the board,” said Svihovec. “More than anything though, I wasn’t looking to inherit the Motor Vehicle Department or the Treasurer’s Office. It’s not what I asked for or sought. But I will support the board. Some of the efficiencies I can see in combining the two offices include not having conflicting department heads, and it’s a more efficient way of doing things. Fourteen or 15 counties have combined these offices in North Dakota.”