The Ansonia Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Thursday to change the way the city’s town clerk is paid.
For years, Ansonia had been allowing its town clerk to take a percentage from the fees collected from the public, in addition to being paid a flat salary of about $28,000.
No one has accused, or even implied, that the current Town Clerk, Madeline Bottone, or anyone in her office has done anything wrong under the way the system is set up.
In fact, Bottone, who is retiring this year, has paid for computer and software upgrades for her office to the tune of a little more than $100,000 over the years, though she had no obligation to do so.
But newly-elected Republicans have raised plenty of questions about the antiquated setup, saying paying the clerk a flat salary will provide more transparency and accountability while boosting revenues for a cash-strapped city facing rising taxes.
Mayor David Cassetti had urged the Republicans to change and modernize the compensation system so that the town clerk receives a flat salary, similar to the town clerks in 167 other municipalities in the state.
In addition, he wants money that was going to the town clerk through fees going into the town’s general fund, where it can be tracked.
Click here for more background from a previous story.
“This is a money-maker for the town,” Sixth Ward Republican Alderman Patrick Henri said Thursday. “The town clerk gets paid, gives the state what the state gets, the rest goes right to the city coffers.”
Beth Lynch, currently an assistant town clerk, was elected to succeed Bottone last month and will take office in January.
Aldermen voted 11-2 Thursday to pay Lynch $72,000 annually. Republicans Daniel Evans and Joan Radin voted no.
The Republicans were in a hurry to change the system this month because the state’s constitution prohibits municipalities from raising salaries of elected officials during their terms.
During the discussion of Lynch’s salary at an Aldermanic subcommittee Monday and during Thursday’s meeting, Aldermen said that the $72,000 salary was contingent on Lynch promoting one of the office’s current employees to the assistant town clerk’s spot she has.
“She has agreed to appoint within her office,” Seventh Ward Alderman David Blackwell, chairman of the salary committee, said Thursday, adding that the city could realize additional savings by not filling the vacancy created by such a promotion.
Lynch was not at Thursday’s meeting, but the city’s charter gives her authority to appoint her assistant.
Earlier in the week, John Marini, the Republican Town Committee Chairman who will next month become the city’s corporation counsel, said the city was making a “leap of faith” that Lynch would promote one of the current clerk’s office employees to be her assistant.
The assistant clerk position pays a base salary of about $27,000, and in the past has also been supplemented by fees collected by the office — Lynch made in the range of about $65,000 the past three years.
But because it’s a union position any change in salary will have to be negotiated with the city’s collective bargaining units.
In addition to the restructuring of the clerk’s office, Cassetti told Aldermen Dec. 10 his administration “learned of the existence” of a bank account controlled by the town clerk -— and the town clerk alone -— containing about $300,000.
That money had never been reported in the city’s budget, Cassetti said. The $300,000 is apparently a retirement fund Bottone started, using money collected from fees, according to statements at a public meeting by city labor attorney Francis Teodosio.
The Valley Indy then submitted a Freedom of Information request Dec. 11 for information relating to how money collected in fees by the clerk’s office is distributed. The town clerk’s office had said they were not obligated to provide the information.
However, on Thursday (Dec. 19) the Valley Indy received an envelope from outgoing Ansonia corporation counsel Kevin Blake containing six pages of what appear to be account statements giving some detail about the money taken in by the clerk’s office in the past two fiscal years.
Blaker’s letter was dated Dec. 16. A postage stamp on the envelope was dated Dec. 18, the day the Valley Indy story was published at 6:11 a.m.
The information is printed below.