Commerce City Council members eliminated a city staff position Thursday, citing the lack of funding as the reason the municipality had to sever ties with its deputy city clerk.
Moments before, the council approved a $22,500 (approximately $11 per hour) compensation package for the newly elected city clerk/treasurer - who, according to a city ordinance, should receive no compensation.
Lisa Craighead was sworn into office this week after running unopposed for the non-pay position of city clerk/treasurer.
City attorney Erik Johnson said Thursday that Craighead's compensation will be earned through “job related duties that are not specifically cited in the existing ordinance defining the clerk/treasurer position.
By ordinance, the clerk/treasurer is responsible for:
Keeping a journal of all city proceedings.
Enrolling all city ordinances and resolutions.
Maintaining the city's archives.
Attesting and fixing the city seal to documents as required by law.
Depositing and disbursing city funds.
Heather Gaines, the deputy city clerk whose position was eliminated, said the announcement was unexpected.
Gaines came to Thursday's meeting prepared to defend herself after being placed on leave with pay last week. She said that, at that time, she was led to believe that issues of personality conflicts and a problem with a city check register were at the heart of why her employment was being reconsidered.
According to Gaines, she was asked to turn in her resignation last week by then mayor pro-tem Jack Julian. She said she was later advised by Johnson that she had not been fired, but was being placed on administrative leave until the council could meet.
Gaines has been serving as deputy city clerk since June of 2006 when the city created the position to ease the burden on then city clerk/treasurer Vicki Turner. Gaines had previously served the city as the purchasing agent. She was given a wage increase and the responsibility of bookkeeping to “essentially be the right-hand person for (the city clerk/treasurer,) according to statements made by city officials when Gaines was appointed.
“I am asking that this person give daily updates to the clerk so that everyone is on the same page, Johnson said. “This position is appointed by the council and can only be removed by a majority vote of the council.
At the time, the appointment was the second city position to be added to help reduce the responsibilities that fall outside of what the city ordinance outlines as the city clerk's job responsibilities. Gaines' initial position of purchasing agent was the first.
Just prior to Gaines' release, she was earning $11 an hour, she said. That money will now be used to pay the city clerk/treasurer for tasks that have yet to be defined in writing by the council.
Johnson will draw a new ordinance defining the specific role of the clerk/treasurer and affixing a salary for the position - however, the state constitution does not allow a municipality to change the compensation of an elected official during a term of office.
Johnson confirmed that, with the addition of Craighead, the city is now fully staffed and there is no longer a need for both a city clerk and a deputy city clerk.