WAUSAU — Former city clerk Margaret Riley addressed the Wausau Town Council on Thursday to respond to information Councilman Charles Park Sr. had presented during the Dec. 12 meeting.
“I received a copy of what Mr. Park wanted to add to the agenda last month, and I want to address it,” Riley said.
Park was under the impression that city clerk JoAnn Hayes claimed to have seven days of comp time accrued. Riley noted that the actual amount is 7.25 hours of comp time.
“Anytime an employee works more than 40 hours, they get comp time at the overtime rate,” Riley said. “You have got to give them their comp time.”
The town cannot afford to pay overtime to the employees, that is why they are allowed comp time, Riley said.
She also noted that bereavement leave is available to employees at any time. “The mayor and the mayor pro tem are over the clerk, and those are the only two people she has to let know,” Riley said.
Riley announced her plans to retire during the June 13 council meeting after 17 years of service as city clerk.
In August, the council hired Hayes to take Riley’s place as city clerk, but Riley stayed on to train her replacement and to help guide the city through the budgeting process, retiring at the Sept. 28 town council meeting.
Riley has also made herself available to help Hayes during the transition, even after leaving the town’s payroll.
“During the interviewing process, you said the starting pay for the clerk would be $12.50 per hour, and after a 90-day probation that would go to $13.50, that is what you voted on,” Riley said.
She said that according to the city personnel policy, the probation period should have been six months, but she had mistakenly informed the council that it was a 90-day probationary period. “I’m sorry for that, but you all voted on it.”
“The clerk in Wausau has never had to be voted on every year to be rehired,” Riley said. “I never have heard of that before. The clerk is hired by the council.”
Riley said she was informed that she should not be allowed behind the counter at city hall. “Why am I a security risk after 17 years?” she asked.
“When I left here, I had a deep respect for each of you,” Riley told the council members. “I said I would come back and help the city in any way I could.”
“If you don’t have trust in your clerk and have the confidence in her to move money back and forth, from the street department to the water department and so on, then you’re in trouble,” Mayor B.J. Phillips said. “I’m kind of new at this mayor business, but I know we have to go by the city charter.”
Riley said the town lives on a month-to-month budget, just like regular families, and sometimes the clerk has to move funds from one account to another to cover bills.
One example was a $12,000 fire truck payment that was due in December, and which caused concern with the Volunteer Fire Department members.
“The county has cut back on the amount of fire funds they provide, and those funds don’t come in all at once,” Riley explained. She said the county has cut its annual contribution to the city fire department by $10,000.
“We’re living with a budget, and to survive, we have to move money around,” Phillips said.
Past practice has been that the clerk moved funds around to pay the bills, without seeking council permission for each transaction, Riley said. “In your books each month you get a report showing all the transactions.”
Councilman Dallas Carter said he was under the impression that every thing had to come before the council for approval.
“You do get a report that you approve each month, but the clerk has never had to ask every time she made a transaction, at least not in the 17 years I was here,” Riley said.
“Margaret was here for 17 years and she did a fine job,” Carter said. “We have got to have trust in the clerk and I think she (Hayes) is doing a fine job.”
“I’ve been lucky enough to have Margaret here to train me,” Hayes said, “and when we have had issues, she’s always been willing to help me out.”
“I was very disappointed in this piece of writing,” Phillips said of Park’s comments. “This was just not called for.”
County Attorney Jeff Goodman recommended the council members put the dissent behind them.
“Wausau is a good town, and people care about this community,” Goodman said. “My advice is to put this in the rearview mirror and go forward.”