County commissioners meet Friday: Check-writing, signing process addressed
The Union County Board of Commissioners had nearly wrapped up discussion about items on the agenda for last week’s regular meeting when the focus turned to a check-writing process.
The commissioners met Friday morning, July 14, at the Union County Courthouse.
Early discussion focused on the issuing of four building permits, plans for a future bridge project on Bauer Road and the cost of the county’s jail bill.
Discussion about the check-writing and signing process was initiated by Union County Clerk Terry Bartruff.
Bartruff said he had been informed by Union County Treasurer Darren Bailey that the clerk’s name had been removed from all accounts.
When the discussion began, the treasurer was not in attendance at the meeting. Bailey arrived shortly after the discussion began.
Bartruff said that the removal of his name from the accounts went against county policy regarding the process.
Union County commissioners Max Miller and Dale Russell at that point said they were not happy with the action taken by the treasurer.
Miller characterized the action as “total disrespect for other people’s offices” and called it a “recipe for disaster.”
Bartruff said that based on conversation he had with Union County State’s Attorney Tyler R. Edmonds, the clerk and the treasurer could work together to resolve the situation. Bartruff said he was concerned about matters related to checks and balances regarding the check-signing process.
“I am looking for guidance,” Bartruff told the county commissioners.
At that point, the county treasurer arrived at the meeting.
Commissioner Miller suggested that checks with only one signature on them would not be in compliance with county policy.
Bartruff said that he was open to a possible change in the policy. Commissioner Russell said there would not be a change in the policy.
Miller then said that he was “tired of people” in the courthouse “doing things without telling the board” and learning about such actions “after the fact.”
State’s attorney Edmonds advised that consideration could be given to re-running checks with only one signature and reiterated that the treasurer and clerk could work to reach a resolution regarding the process.
The bigger issue, he said, was to make a decision on how to proceed with future business.
Commissioner Danny Hartline suggested that the clerk and the treasurer needed to have a conversation about the process. After such a conversation, the two officials could come back to the board with a recommendation.
“Right now, we’re violating our own policy,” Hartline said. “A conversation needs to happen.”
“We need to adhere to our policy. It needs to stand, as is,” commissioner Russell said. “We still have a policy in place. I’m for standing by our policy.”
Commissioner Miller said he had concerns about the long-term outlook for the matter.
“The policy was put there for a reason,” Miller said. He said the policy was in place as a matter of checks and balances. He suggested that the checks presented at Friday’s meeting were already printed and needed to be sent out.
Treasurer Bailey then suggested that discussion was not addressing the “biggest issue.”
Bailey said that checks were not being signed in a timely manner, which was costing the county large sums of money. The treasurer said that he had experienced delays of up to 72 hours in the check-writing process.
Commissioner Hartline then suggested that the matter was one which should have been discussed between county offices, and not at a commissioners meeting.
“We have a functional policy issue,” Bailey stated. He suggested that a policy was in place which was not being followed. “Nobody’s following the rules here,” he said.
Bailey said that his duty as treasurer is to protect the money of the people of Union County. “There’s a fundamental performance problem...it’s not being taken care of.” He said that the county board needed to step in and take action.
Commissioner Miller said that he understood the treasurer’s concerns, but added: “I do not appreciate the way it was handled.”
Miller asked Bailey if he had told anybody before taking the action related to the check-writing process. Bailey said that he told the county administrator about his plans. Miller said he would have liked for the county board to have heard about the plans before the treasurer acted.
Bailey said that as treasurer, he has control over the county’s bank accounts. At the same time, while he has trust and faith in the county board, the treasurer said that he has to do what the office’s constitutional powers authorize him to do.
The treasurer said that he would like “to see greater communication as part of a partnership with the board.” Bailey said he would work to better inform the commissioners, but he would also like to see action by the county board.
Commissioner Hartline repeated a call for communication. “Conversations need to happen. Any kind of communication is good. There has to be a solution. Let’s compromise.”
Commissioner Miller repeated his concerns about how the situation had unfolded.
“All this happened...and nobody knew...until after the fact...and that’s what I’m mad about,” Miller said.
After discussing the matter for about 40 minutes, the commissioners moved on to other business.