County kicks off hearings on elected offices

TRACY – Lyon County officials kicked off the first in a series of public hearings Tuesday, seeking public input on whether to take the first steps toward making the offices of Lyon County auditor/treasurer and Lyon County recorder appointed positions.

The turnout in Tracy was small, with only Tracy Mayor Tony Peterson and Tracy City Administrator Roger Gorius attending alongside county commissioners Rick Anderson and Steve Ritter and Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg. However, Peterson and Gorius said they supported the idea of an appointed auditor/treasurer and recorder.

Members of the Lyon County Board are considering a resolution to ask the state of Minnesota for permission to change those two offices from elective to appointive, Anderson explained. The duties of both offices have changed enough in modern times, he said, that “we think it warrants looking at making them appointed positions.”

Anderson, Ritter and Stomberg said having an appointed auditor/treasurer and recorder would help ensure that qualified people perform those jobs. For example, the law doesn’t require a person to have experience in public finance to run for auditor/treasurer, for example.

The county board would also be able to discipline or remove an appointed employee in the case of wrongdoing, Stomberg said.

“What is the cost benefit, if any?” Peterson asked.

“It’s more of a managerial benefit than a cost benefit,” Stomberg said.

Stomberg explained the process the county would have to undergo to make the two offices appointed positions. First, the county would have to ask a Minnesota legislator to carry a bill granting permission to make the change. That’s what the county board is currently considering, Stomberg said.

“There are no guarantees” that a bill would be passed this biennium, he said.

If the Legislature authorizes the bill, Lyon County would then have a formal public comment period on the matter. It would then take a vote of at least 80 percent of the county board to act on the change, Stomberg said.

Stomberg said residents would still have a chance to stop the move to appointed positions. If at least 10 percent of registered voters in the county petition, they can force a public vote on the matter, he said.

If the change to an appointed auditor/treasurer and recorder is made, Stomberg said, the county will be unable to change back for a certain period of time.

Peterson and Gorius said they would support changing over to appointed positions.

“It makes sense. Cities do it that way,” Gorius said. Because cities work with the county auditor/treasurer and recorder’s offices, he thought it was especially important to have accountability in those departments.

County residents who didn’t get a chance to attend Tuesday’s hearing can still give their feedback. Additional hearings will be in Russell, Minneota, Cottonwood and Marshall this week and next week. The hearing in Russell will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Russell Community Center. The hearing in Minneota will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 4, at Minneota City Hall. The hearing in Cottonwood will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4, in the Cottonwood Community Center. The hearing in Marshall will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 5, in the commissioners’ rooms at the Lyon County Government Center.