Changes continue for Town of Waukesha staff

Published on: 2/18/2014

Changes continue within the Town of Waukesha.

The town last week filled two of its previously vacated positions but also saw a member of its already small staff resign.

Almost two months after its former clerk-treasurer stepped down, the town hired Jeanne O'Brien as its new clerk-treasurer. Her first day was Feb. 10.

O'Brien was formerly a part-time clerk with the Village of Eagle for the last three years. She replaces Jamie Salentine, who resigned to pursue another career opportunity, in late 2013.

O'Brien was previously part of a structure in Eagle that had a part-time clerk and part-time treasurer. But the village recently changed its format to combine the positions into a full-time position.

She also previously worked as a deputy clerk/treasurer for the City of Delafield and Town of Ottawa for a total of 16 years of municipal experience.

Town of Waukesha Chairman John Marek said O'Brien was chosen out of 10 candidates who interviewed for the position over the last month and a half.

"She came with good experience, a good reference and is competent for the job," Marek said. "We chose the right candidate for the position."

O'Brien said the position was introduced to her by the former clerk-treasurer. O'Brien said Salentine thought she could "meet the challenges and duties offered under the position."

That's O'Brien's goal as well.

"I am hopeful I can perform the duties requested of me in a professional and efficient manner," O'Brien said, "and that the office will continue to provide the best possible customer service for the citizens of the Town of Waukesha."

And with election season in the town under way (there are two contested races on April 1), Marek said it was imperative to find a new clerk-treasurer.

"Certainly to have it filled before the election is very important or we wouldn't have had anyone to run elections," Marek said.

Deputy clerk resigns

O'Brien joined a staff last week that included Assistant Clerk-Treasurer Eryn Baudo and Deputy Clerk Molly Roamer.

However, just four days after O'Brien started, Roamer announced she would be stepping down at the end of the month.

In an email to the board on Friday, Roamer said her resignation is effective Feb. 27.

"If I can be of assistance during this transition, beyond this date, please let me know," Roamer said. "I will have limited availability. I wish the town well in the future."

Roamer also thanked the board for the opportunity over the last two and a half years.

Her resignation came a day after the town filled its auditor position.

The Town Board unanimously chose the Milwaukee-based Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, as its new auditor, at its meeting Feb. 13.

Baker Tilly, which serves 140 Wisconsin municipalities including many local towns, is a national firm and has offices in the Midwest and on the East Coast and is one of the 20 largest certified public accounting firms in the U.S.

Baker Tilly, which submitted its proposal in December 2013, will conduct the town's 2013 audit for $15,000. If Baker Tilly needs more time to do the audit, it will come back before the board to get approval.

Bringing 'expertise'

John Knepel, a partner with Baker Tilly, was interviewed by the Town Board for more than 45 minutes during last week's meeting.

The other firm the town considered was Johnson Block and Company, Inc. — certified public accountants from Mineral Point.

Representatives from that firm weren't at the Town Board meeting, but after a lengthy question and answer session with Knepel, the town board offered Baker Tilly the job.

Johnson Block and Company would have charged $13,500 but it could have included additional charges due to travel.

"Our hourly rates are higher than theirs," Knepel said. "One of the reasons Baker Tilly is who we are is we feel we bring a whole lot more to the table. We are a larger firm. We have much more substance than many of the firms in this industry.

"We have more than 120 individuals in our firm that work strictly on governmental audits. I personally work 100 percent of my time with local governments. I'm working with governments all year long. We bring a lot of expertise to the table that you can't find in other firms. Part of that is built into the rates. You get what you pay for in Baker Tilly."

Looking to go back

Besides the 2013 audit, Marek asked Knepel about going back to do an audit on the town's 2012 financial books and what it would cost town taxpayers.

"That's really hard to put a number to," Knepel said. "I'm not familiar with your records. You certainly have some change in personnel that could make going back challenging. It could be as much as $5,000 to $8,000 of additional time and effort to do something like that. So much depends on the condition of the records, what's available to look at."

Knepel added that even without an opinion from the town's previous auditor on 2012, the town can move forward on a 2013 audit.

"You're in a situation where the auditor disclaimed an opinion on your financial statements," Knepel said. "For 2013, what that means for a successor auditor (is) they'd have to invest additional time to validate your balances from 2012 so they can be comfortable and give you an unmodified opinion."

The town is in need of a firm to review its financials after its former auditor CliftonLarsonAllen LLP resigned in late 2013.

In addition to these changes, the town also recently saw a change with its town attorney. Local attorney John Macy has settled into the position over the last two months. Macy replaced attorney Hector de la Mora, who resigned at the end of 2013.