Faribault County residents may have no say on who serves as county auditor/treasurer.
At a special meeting held June 27, commissioners took the first step to make the position one that is appointed by the County Board, rather than being elected by voters.
The board passed a resolution to publish a notice of the proposed change in the county’s official newspaper on July 3 and July 10. A public hearing must also be held and has been set for July 18.
For some counties, a person lacking qualifications or experience being elected has been a concern, however, that hasn’t been an issue locally.
“We have been fortunate in our county to have qualified individuals in this elected position,” says Commissioner Bill Groskreutz. “My understanding is that has not been the case elsewhere. This is a change that has been made in other counties around the state.”
Groskreutz’s comments were made following Darren Esser’s announcement at a May 16 board meeting he would be resigning effective June 24.
Esser cited a heavy workload that at times required him to work seven days a week as a reason for stepping down.
Last December, commissioners missed giving themselves a pay raise for 2023 when Esser advised them to approve a motion to increase their salary to $23,314.
But, under state law, any increase in commissioners’ compensation for the upcoming year must be adopted by resolution before the end of the year. Board members are well aware of the requirement, having passed resolutions the past several years.
Esser at the time admitted the oversight was his fault and said board members weren’t too happy about it.
He was quoted as saying, “You may be seeing board action in the near future to remove me from office. However, I hope that is not the case.”
Legally, the commissioners do not have the authority to remove an elected official from office.
“This position can be political and I knew that going in,” says Esser. “If the politics have anything to do with my departure, it is very little.”
Currently, at least 38 out of 87 counties have an appointed auditor-treasurer and there are many more in the process.
Following the public hearing on July 18, commissioners can vote on the resolution and it would require four of the five commissioners to approve its passage.
The change would go into effect on Aug. 18 if the resolution is approved, unless a petition with valid signatures calling for a referendum vote in November is received by the county prior to that date.