Four candidates will appear on the ballot this fall in the race for Violet Township fiscal officer.
Voters will select the next fiscal officer from a field that includes Jennifer Clemens, Dan Griscom, Vanessa Niekamp and Peggy Portier.
The candidates are vying to replace Fiscal Officer Brian Sauer, who is not seeking re-election.
His term expires March 31, 2020, and the winner of the election will take over April 1.
The candidates recently were asked to respond to questions presented to them by the ThisWeek Pickerington Times-Sun.
Here are their responses:
How would you work to ensure the township's financial dealings are transparent and that all public records requests are addressed in a timely fashion?
Clemens: I will work to ensure timely reporting of all financial transactions, accounts payable and payroll to the Ohio Treasurer's online checkbook. This tool allows taxpayers to see exactly how and where their money is being spent.
One would like to believe that public record requests are a simple task and can be provided at the click of a button. It takes time to identify records, locate and review them for preparation. I will work to establish a policy that will be adaptive to the individual request.
The key is to communicate and address time constraints immediately. Creating a log system that will track and prioritize requests, if necessary, can also be a valuable tool.
Griscom: When it comes to public records and financial information, I believe in letting the sunshine in.
In my 35-year career as a school treasurer and fiscal officer, I have responded to public records requests promptly and thoroughly.
Also, I have made sure financial reports are clear, understandable and easily accessible to the public. I would do the same as Violet Township fiscal officer. I would provide budget information online showing where revenues come from and where the tax dollars go.
Niekamp: I would ensure the township's financial dealings are transparent by maintaining, updating and publishing the following information on the township's website: record's retention schedule; public records request policy; timeline of all major expenses (i.e., payroll, insurance, workers' compensation, road repairs, snow removal, salting, equipment, vehicles, buildings, etc); annual budget; monthly expense transactions; investment policy; and bi-annual audits.
I have over 24 years experience complying with Ohio's Public Records Act and believe the more informed our residents are, the better our government works.
I would first develop a records retention policy and a public records request policy to ensure compliance with the Ohio Revised Code. I would set a goal for the township fiscal office to acknowledge every request in writing and for the records to be made available within three business days.
I would work with the township's legal counsel when a record might be withheld, redacted or otherwise denied to provide an explanation detailing the legal reason the information was not provided.
Portier: To ensure transparency in the township's financial dealings, I will continue to participate in what is popularly known as the Ohio Open Checkbook. It is a program through the secretary of state, which makes our financial data available online.
Also, I plan to keep regularly scheduled office hours for residents with concerns or questions. I will be happy to meet with them.
Regarding public records requests, the township has an adopted records policy which I will follow closely so everyone understands what to expect. Requests that are ambiguous or overly broad make timely responses difficult.
If a resident is having difficulty making a records request, assistance will be provided to explain the procedure so the desired information can be provided as quickly as possible. I believe in the public's right to know what their elected officials are doing on their behalf and encourage residents to stay informed.
What makes you the best candidate to serve as Violet Township fiscal officer?
Clemens: I worked in the Reynoldsburg Auditor's Office for seven years, where I developed a strong understanding of financial integrity and what it means to be fiscally responsibly with taxpayer dollars. I am running as a nonpartisan candidate with the desire to serve the people of Violet Township.
It is my vision to see our community thrive in economic development, while making sure funding for public safety is a priority. I want to ensure that our residents and communities are safe.
Griscom: I am the only candidate running for fiscal officer who has had an entire career being a fiscal officer.
My education, skills and experience are directly related to the duties of this position. I have a proven track record of public service and effective financial leadership, having worked 30 years as a school treasurer/CFO and five years as fiscal officer for Westerville Public Library.
As treasurer, I have helped school districts save hundreds of thousands of dollars by using cost-saving measures and improving efficiencies. While treasurer/CFO of the Pickerington Local Schools (2008-2013), we earned the "Making Your Tax Dollars Count" award from the state auditor for having a clean audit and excellent financial reporting.
I am experienced in financial analysis and forecasting that is needed for effective planning. I would collaborate well with the trustees to achieve goals for the township and would provide excellent customer service to our residents.
Niekamp: I believe I have a record of public service our residents can trust. My education along with 24 years government leadership experience, including responsibility for a $1.3 billion state budget, also make me uniquely qualified to be the fiscal officer.
I have made my home here for the past 22 years and have extensive community service, which shows my dedication to Violet Township and my ability to serve.
Portier: I am the best candidate for fiscal officer because I can hit the ground running.
With two new high-level staff members being hired in the next few months, my experience will serve the public well.
I have worked part-time for the township for the past five years. I work well with the staff and am familiar with township operations. I've been assisting in the fiscal office for the past 12 months and have already been using the accounting software. I handled a project to update the township's records retention schedule, which was adopted last year and regularly deal with maintaining and storing the township records.
I have already taken training courses specific to this office and know I have the ability and integrity necessary to serve as fiscal officer. I'm committed to this community. I have lived here for 25 years and am involved in several nonprofit organizations.
I am a former paramedic and business owner. I can manage an office. I like to work cooperatively, which is necessary in township government.
As an elected official, the township fiscal officer is independent of the trustees, but we all must work together for the township to function well.
What are the top two to three priorities of the Violet Township Fiscal Office and how would you satisfy them?
Clemens: In speaking with our residents their top two concerns are over spending and over taxation.
If elected, I will bring those concerns into office with me.
I want to rebuild trust in the community. Open communication with the residents, trustees and fire department are key to a growing community.
Griscom: My priorities are: 1) provide timely, accurate and understandable financial reports that are needed to make good decisions; 2) review contracts, services, accounting procedures and systems to ensure they are effective and making the best use of financial resources and technology; and 3) work with the trustees to provide the highest quality services to the residents of Violet Township while operating in a fiscally conservative manner. I have the skills and experience to carry out these duties with a high degree of competence and integrity.
Niekamp: I view the top responsibilities of the township fiscal office as maintaining the official acts/records of the township, overseeing the funds and working collaboratively with the trustees to ensure resources are utilized in the best interest of all residents.
I would satisfy these priorities by being actively involved at the township office and all meetings of the trustees.
I would ensure information is provided timely and is informative to the trustees who make decisions on behalf of the public body.
I would make sure all accounting data is a true reflection of the state of the township; as incorrect data could cost the taxpayers money associated to fees, penalties, and audit findings.
I would make budgeting and forecasting reports readily available for residents to access and will make certain they are easy to comprehend.
Portier: Three important aspects of the fiscal officer's job are to maintain the township records, invest public funds and pay the bills.
By law, I will be mandated to keep an accurate record of the proceedings of the board of trustees and of all its accounts and transactions. Minutes of the trustee meetings will be posted on the township website as soon as they are approved and stored in fireproof cabinets. I will continue to use the accounting software created by the state auditor's office and follow our adopted records retention schedule for storage and destruction of records.
I will negotiate with financial institutions for the best terms on township deposit accounts and work closely with financial advisors to ensure public funds are invested wisely. I will work with the trustees and department heads to assure adherence to the budget and monitor expenditures to assure a proper public purpose for all funds.