CLAY COUNTY — Appointed incumbent Bob Nance faces two challengers also from the Republican party, Lisa Vogelbaugh Keefer and Jesse Leimkuehler, on the August ballot for the office of Clay County Treasurer. No Democrats filed for the office on the primary ballot so the winner of the August ballot wins election to the four-year seat.

Each candidate was asked questions about issues facing the county office and allotted 75 words per response. In fairness to all candidates, answers longer than 75 words are cut off at the nearest end of a sentence and denoted with an ellipsis (...). Answers are published in alphabetical order of candidate last name.

What is the biggest issue facing county revenues, and how would you advocate as treasurer to resolve it?

Keefer: “Decreased revenue due to the current environment we live in. Being (fiscally) responsible is the No. 1 priority.”

Leimkuehler: “The biggest issue facing county revenues is clearly the $52 million bond that was created by (current Clay County Commissioners) Gene Owen and Luann Ridgeway. The revenue income for the county is more than adequate to sustain a normal budget, but the unchecked spending through the bond is a clear threat to our county’s solvency. We have to stop the building of the Annex and other similar expenditures at all costs.”

Nance: “COVID-19 has had a negative impact on sales tax revenues. However, there has been a corresponding increase in use tax, so year to date, we are slightly ahead ($30,000) of 2019. Whether this is sustainable is uncertain. It is imperative to communicate changes in revenues to the commission so decisions can be made. I update the commission monthly and compare revenue with the prior year and budget. Depletion of the rainy day fund must be addressed.”

In your own words, explain the role of a county treasurer in relation to taxpayers, the auditor’s office and county finance department.

Keefer: “Collecting county revenues and being responsible for the financial well-being of Clay County.”

Leimkuehler: “First, the auditor, treasurer and finance department must create checks and balances for all three offices in regards to spending. Currently, the commission has authorized the finance department to create expenditures without sign-off by the auditor or treasurer. That simply can’t continue. Second, all three offices must communicate openly with taxpayers to ensure they are informed at all times through websites, social media and open meetings. We aren’t doing enough of that right now.”

Nance: “The treasurer is the caretaker of the taxpayers’ money and is responsible for receiving, dispersing and investing funds. The treasurer’s primary role is that of the banker. The treasurer’s office communicates with the auditor almost daily. The auditor is the chief accounting officer. Requests for payment must be approved by the auditor before I will issue payment. The finance department currently functions as approval authority for the commission, purchasing agent and approves (purchase orders). (There is no) segregation of duties.”

Do you think the county’s transparency portal provides enough information to the public about the workings of the treasurer’s office? If not, what other information should be placed on the portal?

Keefer: “No. We should provide the citizens of Clay County any information necessary or requested for a better understanding of Clay County procedures.”

Leimkuehler: “Both the treasurer’s office website and portal are inadequate at best. The treasurer’s website hasn’t been updated in years. It needs to be rebuilt, something I can do at minimal cost to taxpayers, to properly display all 50-plus of the various funds that the treasurer tracks on a regular basis. The transparency portal has never fully displayed all the county information that should be required for all offices.”

Nance: “We are in discussions with the auditor to add fund balances to the portal. On the treasurer’s site, you can find treasurer responsibilities, office duties, sales tax, unclaimed property and links to audit reports, bond initiatives and the portal. In April, we were one of only six counties who partnered with the state treasurer to share county expenditures on the state treasurer’s website under the Show-Me Checkbook Clay County.”

Is there enough oversight over county revenues and expenditures? If not, what specific issues exist and how would you work to rectify them?

Keefer: “No, but being honest, transparent and available to listen to the concerns of the citizens of Clay County would be one of my goals.”

Leimkuehler: “Generally, revenue has been handled well. The expenditures are often hidden from public view and it needs to stop. Purchasing cards held by county administrators currently have spending limits over $100,000. Those need to be severely limited and the limits need to be reduced. Also, all debt increases need to be voted on by the general public. We need to be more accountable to the citizens.”

Nance: “No. With the new commission in place, I will advocate for the use of local attorneys and Sunshine Law requests be returned to the clerk, thereby reducing legal fees. I will recommend we limit the use of (purchase) cards. Commissioners need to start performing their statutory duties and statutory duties need to be returned to officeholders. I will recommend a moratorium be placed on the $52 million debt (for bond projects) that was incurred without voter approval.”

Do you believe the treasurer’s office has adequate resources, including staff, to perform the responsibilities assigned to the office under Missouri law? If not, what would you like to see changed, if elected?

Keefer: “Yes.”

Leimkuehler: “Yes, they generally have the resources needed. With that said, there will be changes in the structure of the departments moving forward. Some of the finance department may be restructured in the new year, which could change which departments those employees work in. That’s going to require the commission and the elected officers to assess where those resources should be allocated. I look forward to engaging in that process.”

Nance: “We are properly staffed. If the new commission returns the duties back to the officeholders, that might lead to additional staffing needs. Staffing is reviewed annually to ensure adequate resources are available. Currently, staffing is the largest line item in the treasurer’s budget as county resources are centralized. Items such as IT are budgeted in the IT department. The treasurer is responsible for preparing the budget of the treasurer’s office only.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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