CLAY COUNTY — In the November general election, incumbent Clay County Clerk Megan Thompson, a Republican, will face off against challenger and Democrat Tom Brandom, a seasoned county government official, for the four-year seat.
To help voters educate themselves on where the two stand on issues, each candidate was sent a questionnaire asking about issues affecting the county and the clerk’s office. Each candidate was limited to 75 words per answer. Questions unanswered are marked with an “X.”
How do you define the role of county clerk?
Brandom: “The county clerk is an administrative position charged with keeping accurate orders, rules and proceedings of the county commission. It is also responsible for issuing notary licenses, liquor and other licenses specified by Missouri statutes and Clay County’s municipal ordinances. The county clerk, by definition, is an administrative position created to support the public. It is the place where any citizen can come to ask questions about Clay County government.”
Thompson: “The clerk’s duties include keeping accurate records of county commission proceedings, keeping accurate accounts of the money paid into and out of the county treasury and processing different kinds of licenses. The clerk also works closely with other county offices to make sure taxes are collected in accordance with the law.”
Should the county clerk or the county administrator be the custodian of records including Sunshine Law requests?
Brandom: “The county clerk is the custodian of records in nearly all Missouri counties. It posts public notices, publishes official reports and stores county records. As the primary document keeper for county records, it should be the starting point for all Sunshine requests. It may have to send copies to the county counselor, county commission or other departments to correctly satisfy the Missouri statutory requirements for public documents. That is normal and should not be controversial.”
Thompson: “The county clerk should be the custodian of records because it is important to have a neutral and efficient person handle record requests. Having the county administrator, who then pays a lawyer $375 per hour to actually do the job, is a huge waste of money.”
What is the biggest issue in the clerk’s office and how would you work to resolve it?
Brandom: “The current problem in Clay County is public trust. Officials have to work together for the public good or the entire system of government looks bad. I have worked with many of our elected officials, as presiding commissioner and county clerk, so I have history to guide me. If the county clerk operates in a positive administrative role, it should help the county commission with some of their trust issues. Otherwise, I am battle tested.”
Thompson: “The biggest issue facing our community and the clerk’s office is the lack of civility and cooperation in government. All our elected leaders need to set aside petty personal politics and focus on improving our community. I will continue to work respectfully with other officeholders, county employees and the public to ensure we get the kind of government we deserve.”
Do you feel Clay County government has an issue with transparency? If so, what are the specific issues and how would you resolve them, if elected?
Brandom: “Transparency should not be an issue in government. As presiding commissioner, I promoted public input in commission meetings and only cut discussion off when speakers were repeating themselves. Clay County could have a much better form of government if one single thing changed: our elected offices should be nonpartisan. I could support a charter form of government if it was limited to changing that one thing, nonpartisan elected officials. That would improve everything else.”
Thompson: “I believe open and accessible government is one of our bedrock principles. Elected officials should not be afraid to show the public what they are doing. That is why I opposed the county commission’s decision to reduce the number of public meetings and limit the ability of citizens to address the commission during those meetings.”
Does the clerk’s office use enough technology to make accessing and filing public documents an efficient process for all? If not, what should be changed and how would you change it, if elected?
Brandom: “When I started as county clerk, we were recording commission meetings on cassettes. I changed over to MP3 files that could be copied and played to support Sunshine requests. We were also scanning document to PDF files, again to make it easier to store and disseminate. The biggest problem right now is staffing. The commission cut two employees from the county clerk’s office. I would request one headcount be returned for record conversion.”
Thompson: “We have already implemented a new software program that streamlines the licensing process for local businesses at no additional cost to taxpayers. I plan to build upon this success in the future by using an information verification portal to assist our residents with accessing information about licenses, notaries and other government documents.