Dayton signs bill for appointed county officials

MARSHALL – A bill that would officially allow Lyon County to appoint its auditor/treasurer and recorder instead of electing them was signed into law Wednesday. A release from the office of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Dayton signed a bill allowing a total of five Minnesota counties to make certain county offices appointed ones instead of elected ones. In addition to Lyon County, Jackson, Lake, Clay and Kandiyohi counties are included in the bill.

Dayton’s action on the bill means Lyon County commissioners may vote to change the auditor/treasurer and recorder’s positions next week, after a public comment period on Tuesday.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said the signing of the bill comes about three years after the county started seeking permission to appoint the offices of county auditor/treasurer and county recorder instead of electing them.

“It’s been a long process,” Stomberg said. The bill was first introduced in 2012, reintroduced in 2013 and passed by the Minnesota Senate before the end of the session. This year, he said, “The House put it on the agenda quite early” and passed the bill last week.

And although it took three legislative sessions to pass the bill, Lyon County officials had been debating and gathering public input even before that.

A series of public forums was held around the county to gather feedback, although not all drew members of the public to attend.

The public comment session on appointing the offices of auditor/treasurer and county recorder will be at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 18, in the commissioners’ room at the Lyon County Government Center. After public comments are collected, Stomberg said, the county board will either make a decision on the matter or take it under advisement for a future date.

The vote to appoint the two county offices must have a majority of at least 80 percent of the county board, Stomberg said. If commissioners pass a resolution, members of the public have 60 days to petition to bring the issue to a referendum instead.

If a resolution is passed without public objections, the first appointed Lyon County auditor/treasurer and county recorder would begin work in January, at the end of the current officials’ terms. Under the new law, Stomberg said, the appointees would stay in their positions for a minimum of three years. After that point, the county board could vote to go back to having elected officials if things didn’t work out.

“So, there are checks and balances,” Stomberg said.