A claim by Republican Clark County Commissioner David Madore that adopting a county charter will cost taxpayers money has prompted the county’s budget manager to say Madore’s assertion is not factually correct.
In an email to Nan Henriksen, who chaired the board of 15 elected nonpartisan freeholders that drafted the proposed charter, Clark County Budget Manager Bob Stevens wrote that Madore’s claim is based on assumptions “not proscribed by the county charter.”
On Friday, Madore hung up on a reporter after refusing to explain why he assumes a new full-time deputy county manager would be hired. Before hanging up, Madore said he would not make any direct statements to The Columbian and that the best way to communicate with him was through his Facebook page.
Madore opposes the charter, which, among other things, expands the board from three members to five.
The charter will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Increasing the number of board members would not cost more money, Stevens concluded, as salaries would be reduced by nearly half to $53,000 a year, except for the chairman, who would receive more.
“It has come to my attention that Commissioner Madore has made a post to Facebook that calls into question the financial analysis that I personally performed for the freeholders in their charter deliberations,” Stevens wrote to Henriksen. “I want you, as chair of that group, to know that I stand behind my analysis completely and without reservation. The changes proposed in the charter presented to the voters are budget neutral. In other words, the charter does not include any provision that would cause an increase in the budget,” he wrote.
“I personally contacted Commissioner Madore about his post and informed him that I stand by my initial work. From that conversation, I learned that the analysis in his post was his own based on some raw payroll data provided by staff. The basis for the claim of an additional cost of $271,000 are based solely on his assumptions related to the pay of the county administrator and that the deputy county administrator would be a new, additional position. Those assumptions are his to defend and not proscribed by the proposed charter,” Stevens wrote.
“Finally, I will say that the Budget Office is Clark County’s official source of salary and benefit projections. It is my opinion, as Clark County budget manager, that the financial analysis provided to the freeholders is correct and it remains unchanged,” he wrote.
“Please feel free to share this with the other freeholders as you see fit,” Stevens wrote.
Henriksen, a former Camas mayor, served on the freeholder’s executive committee with Temple Lentz, a Democratic precinct committee officer, and Joe Zarelli, a former Republican state lawmaker.
Henriksen said Friday she was incensed by Madore’s Facebook post.
“We worked so hard to conduct ourselves as freeholders in an honorable and credible way,” she said. “All along we wanted it to be budget neutral. We went out of our way to have the budget office run our numbers and analyze our documents.”
“To me, Madore’s claims question the credibility of the budget office and of me, Temple and Joe,” she said.
Henriksen contacted Stevens to confirm he stood by his analysis and told him she wanted to let other freeholders know they were given accurate information.
Madore, she said, “made his own assumptions for whatever reasons that are outside of the actual document.”
The charter states terms of employment, including salary, for the county manager (the title used instead of administrator) would be determined by the five-member board. A deputy county manager would be a current employee designated to serve as county manager in the county manager’s absence. Henriksen said she believed the language in the charter made it clear it was not intended to be a new, full-time position.
In Madore’s Facebook post, he wrote, in part, “It turns out that the sales pitch for the proposed charter is way off. The widely-circulated pro-charter fliers show that the charter will save $41,000 per year. That actual bare bones charter cost is $230,000 higher than our current form of county government. The $271,000 error is due to the exclusion of the inherent costs for the charter specified employees. County staff provided the line item breakdown today for the actual taxpayer cost of our current administrator and county commissioners.”
Henriksen said the goal was always to make the proposal budget neutral, but that changing to a more efficient form of government could save money over time.