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Vernon Town Council Revises Registrars Compensation Policy

Extra pay during election time must get approval.

The Town Council on Tuesday approved a policy that sets the salary of the registrars of voters but scrutinizes more closely the extra compensation they receive during election time.

The vote was 7-5 along party lines with the Republican majority prevailing.

The salaries for Democratic Registrar Judith Beaudreau and Republican Registrar John Anderson are fixed at $27,000 each.

The registrars also traditionally get a stipend that amounted last time around to $2,244 each for extra time worked during election periods, but the new policy stipulates that the council must approve any additional compensation.

The vote ended a night of intense debate over the topic with council members describing the extra compensation both as a "stipend" and a "per diem" rate.

Council Democrats asked Beaudreau how many hours a week she works during election time and her response was that it could reach 100 to 150 hours in a week.

Democrats have been arguing that the new policy effectively endorses a pay cut.

Republican Bill Campbell disagreed.

"This is not a pay cut," he said. "This is just oversight by the Town Council that is necessary."

Democrat Michael Winkler said the new policy is another chapter in a "toxic relationship" that has existed between the registrars and the Republicans over the past few years.

"I was hoping we could eliminate that," Winkler said. "This is just another slap at the registrars from the council and it is just foolishness."

The stipends are part of the payroll and have been automatically paid out, town officials said. The rate is roughly $1,000 per election, primary or referendum.

Republican John Kopec said the approval policy "clarifies what total monies  are being paid to the registrars," while adding, "It makes the stipends see the light of day." He added it makes the process "transparent."

Democrat Thomasina Russell, clearly annoyed over the debate, wondered aloud, "The money is already in the budget. Why reinvent the wheel?"

The registrars office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday during non-election times.

Democrat Thomas DiDio said he wanted to inject some logic in the discussion and moved to amend the motion to make the salary $29,250 and by-pass "the per diem." It was seconded by Michael Winkler and the Republicans quickly called for a short recess.

When the session resumed the Democrats argued in favor of the higher salary to end the stipend/per diem disagreements. The Republicans stood firm and maintained that all extra compensation should require approval.

Mayor George Apel said that the two elections last time could pale in comparison to a lengthly budget approval process, so the approval rule makes sense.

Democrat Marie Herbst, citing the delicate legal balance of paid elected officials, abstained from the vote on the amendment and it failed 7-4.

The majority then carried the main motion.

"All department heads come away from that chair with the same feeling - like they have just visited their in-laws," Deputy mayor Brian Motola said to the registrars. "We're just watching every penny."

meowkats4 February 20, 2013 at 02:13 PM
They watch every penny SOME of the TIME! What about watching every penny ALL of the TIME???
Bert February 20, 2013 at 03:22 PM
This situation is nearly identical to that of the previous mayor who worked many extra hours during two storms and took compensation. His salary at the time was $21,000 (less than that of the registrars) The council went wild and democrat members demanded that he return the money. If I remember correctly, the council adapted a policy that prevented an elected person with a set salary from taking compensation after the fact without council approval. There are only three employees who fall into that catagory - the mayor and the two registrars of voters. This is an oversight issue. No one gets to add to their salary unilaterally. All items should be in their budget. They need to clock in and out to prove that they deserve overtime and be prepared to argue it in their next budget or, go to the council immediately and bring it to their attention. Maybe during the next year they will be able to provide the council with a base line of time needed to do the job and the council can consider ajusting their salaries acccordingly. It's curious that 4 democrats chose to vote against a policy that they fought so hard for just a year ago. And what was the purpose of the 5th democrat's absention? I don't get that at all.
meowkats4 February 20, 2013 at 06:57 PM
They need to clock in and out to prove that they deserve overtime and be prepared to argue it in their next budget or, go to the council immediately and bring it to their attention. Isn't the town getting new TIME CLOCKS???? Or is that just for the BOE??? Where are these time clocks going???
Paul Stansel February 20, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Except of course it WAS in the budget already...
Tanner February 21, 2013 at 05:26 PM
The time clocks are installed all over town. Walk through some of the building if you get the chance. Last time i knew they had been in place for over a month and still unused. This is classic for the town. They never plan these things out and when it comes to implementation they never can figure out what the heck they are doing.
Tanner February 21, 2013 at 05:27 PM
I agree. They have a problem paying people for work they do. Yet they then go out and blow countless times that money elsewhere.
John Kopec February 21, 2013 at 09:35 PM
That is not quite true Paul. The registrars may have accounted for their additional compensation in the budget, but there was no line item for additional compensation for registrars. The state statute says that registrars “shall receive such reasonable compensation from the municipality as is approved by the selectmen of the town” but how can the council “approve” of compensation that is not visible as going to the registrars?
Bert February 21, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Installing the clocks is the first step. The implementation and software installation comes next. Maybe Tanner is not aware of the "plan" so he doesn't know that the town actually has "figured out what the heck they are doing." It's sickening how many people there are out there who just love to assume the worst. If all these people got together and put their energy toward doing a better job than what they perceive is being done now, Vernon would be the best town in the USA !
Richard Hertz March 12, 2013 at 04:38 PM
"Council Democrats asked Beaudreau how many hours a week she works during election time and her response was that it could reach 100 to 150 hours in a week. " That is absolutely ridiculous and completely untrue, there are only a total of 168 hours in a week if you're working 24/7! If you're supposedly working "150 hours a week" you're only sleeping for 2 hours a day and you're not eating or driving to work.

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