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Ferrisburgh treasurer out; clerk retains post

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Tuesday ended the tenure of Treasurer Garrit Smits, who had faced criticism for his accounting performance and work schedule from the town selectboard, co-workers, and town and professional auditors.
Smits ran for re-election against town auditor Deb Healey, who resigned her post to challenge him and defeated Smits in the race, 531-82.
Smits in January also filed to run for town clerk against incumbent Gloria Warden, whom he had defeated for the treasurer’s post in 2014. But this time around Warden coasted to victory, 571-60.
Smits had said a selectboard decision to cut his hours from 40 to 35 had made it difficult to do his job, that he had saved money for the town with several contracts and innovations, that the selectboard had undermined other cost-saving ideas he proposed, and that many late payments and mistakes were not his fault, but rather that of the Ferrisburgh road foreman and other co-workers.
But professional auditors recently stated that some town accounts are not reconciled, bank deposits have not been made in a timely manner, fund balances were not recorded, and late fees have been assessed by the IRS.
Long discussions at selectboard meetings were devoted to the issue, with the selectboard expressing frustration about their inability to work with an elected treasurer who did not answer to them.
Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said board members were gratified by Tuesday’s results.
“I think the selectboard is very pleased. The voters have spoken and the facts speak for themselves. Gloria will continue to do a great job,” Lawrence said. “And Deb will do a great job. This is what she does for a living.”
Lawrence said it would take time for Healey, who was on the job on Wednesday, to take care of what Lawrence called “a mess,” but she was confident Tuesday’s results would put the town on the right track.
“It’s time to move forward for the best interest of the town,” she said. “And we feel we have two people who can do that.”
At the same time, Lawrence repeated that she likes Smits.
“He’s a nice person, but he just didn’t do the job,” she said. “We certainly wish him well in his future endeavors.”
In response to the issues surrounding the treasurer’s job, the selectboard late last year began working on the town’s first charter, one that made both the treasurer and clerk positions appointed by and answerable to the board — thus it is possible Healey and Warden will be the last elected to the two posts.
Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said at this past Saturday’s town meeting residents responded positively to a draft of the two-page charter. It must be voted on and approved by town residents and then by the Legislature before it takes effect.
Lawrence told the Independent previously she had been led to believe the charter could be approved this summer when the Legislature is out of session, but had since learned from Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, that approval would have to wait.
The selectboard has scheduled two required public hearings on the charter for April 10 and 17, and a town-wide vote on the charter must then be held within 30 days of April 10. 

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