With the search for a replacement city clerk/treasurer entering its fourth month, White Salmon officials are asking the City Council to bring in a certified public accountant (CPA) on a temporary basis.
A month ago, the city thought it had found the right person for the position. However, when that woman was offered the job, she declined it because she had already been offered another job with better pay elsewhere.
"She would have been great," Mayor Linda Jones said. "We need somebody here. It's been since the end of February."
Mayor Jones informed the council she was asking for approval to contract with Steven Everroad of Walroad, LLC, a CPA firm in Hood River.
The city anticipated paying $60 an hour for the CPA's services.
With Mayor Jones unable to be at the last City Council meeting, Public Works Director Wil Keyser tried to explain what the mayor was requesting.
"The mayor's objective is to seek a consultant or a CPA to come in and provide financial oversight to the city for an interim period," Keyser told the council members. "The notion is to provide for a bit of management oversight, to review our current budget to get a handle on where we are, and manage our cash flow as well."
The city is trying to find a new clerk/treasurer to replace Kelly Ingraham, who left White Salmon on Feb. 25 to take a new job.
"The mayor is under the impression the city has a need for financial oversight," added Deborah Phillips, the city's attorney.
However, members of the City Council were skeptical about the idea of bringing in a CPA on an interim basis.
"I'm not sure if I believe that service is something we need at exactly this time. This is not a good solution," said council member Penny White Morris.
"I'd like to know if there is more than one person to choose from," added council member Susan Gookin. "There are more CPAs in the area to choose from. I'd like to know there is more than one choice at least."
"We don't know a thing about this person," agreed Morris.
Keyser said he had worked with Everroad before.
"His background in municipal finance is well-established," Keyser said. "It's important that whoever it is know municipal budgets."
Keyser added that he believes the city's finances are currently in order.
"Our books are in good standing now," Keyser said. "I don't know how long until we get someone on board [in the clerk/treasurer position], but if it's going to be six to eight weeks, we could get someone on board a couple days a week just to make sure things are kosher."
Keyser added that he was confident that Margie Ziegler, the deputy city clerk, has the books in order. He suggested that the council delay making a decision.
"Maybe we should table this until the mayor is here to speak for herself," Keyser said.
Councilor Morris asked if it made more sense -- rather than contract with Everroad -- to see if Ingraham would be willing to work for the city a few hours a week.
"We've asked someone from across the river to come in for $60 an hour. Would Kelly [Ingraham] be willing to do this?" asked Morris.
Because Mayor Jones was not present, council member Francis Gaddis -- who was serving as mayor pro tem in Jones' absence -- said he believed the decision should be tabled.
"I've gone through this before," said Gaddis. "I feel we should table it until we have a meeting again with the mayor."
The council unanimously agreed to defer the decision until the council's next meeting, which is set for June 15.
Last week, a few days after the meeting, Jones said she wanted to hire a consultant to make sure everything was in order with the budget. She said it could still be a few weeks until a clerk/treasurer can be hired.
"We have resumes and applications, and are reviewing those and setting up interviews. But it will still be three or four weeks before we can get someone in here," Jones explained. "Until that time, I'd like to get someone in here for oversight for about 8-12 hours a week to monitor and direct."
Council member Richard Marx was glad the request to approve a contract with an outside CPA was tabled.
"We need to discuss it more," said Marx.
Marx explained that he wanted to expand the discussion about bringing in a CPA. Marx said he believes the city could save money if it contracted with a CPA on a part-time basis rather than hiring a full-time city employee to do the job.
"I calculate we would save $30,000 if we have a person doing this part-time," Marx said. "It's going to save a lot of money."
Marx pointed out that the city pays a salary of about $59,000 a year -- not including benefits -- to its clerk/treasurer.
"Someone part-time would not get benefits," Marx noted. "An outside CPA would save us money."
Marx added that he understands the reasons behind the call to bring in someone to review the city's finances.
"The mayor wants a second opinion on the budget. I'd do the same if I were in her shoes," Marx said.