Thursday, June 25, 2020

Chaos continues in Sumpter treasurer's office

The dispute between Sumpter Township Treasurer Kenneth Bednark and the members of the board of trustees continued last week when Bednark announced he was closing the treasurer's office on Mondays and Fridays.
On Tuesday, he rescinded that directive and agreed to allow the deputy supervisor access to his office to help process the backlog of checks received in payment for water bills and or taxes that he had refused to open or process.

Members of the board unanimously voted to file legal action against the treasurer earlier this month if he failed to comply with his statutory duty and process the growing number of unprocessed payments. Following an exchange of correspondence, Bednark said he disagreed with the board but would begin to process the payments.
In what some board members interpreted as retaliation, however, Bednark emailed Supervisor John Morgan this week announcing that the treasurer's office would be closed to the public on Mondays and Fridays. In that email, Bednark said, “Be aware that outside of statutory hours during tax collection cycles, it is the treasurer that sets these hours without respect to the building hours set by the supervisor.” Bednark also informed the board members that “Due to business and personal commitments” he will no longer come into township hall to perform his statutory duties, but would be managing the office from his home.
In a follow-up correspondence, responding to Morgan's threat of legal action, Bednark said he would allow the deputy supervisor to help in his office to clear the backlog of payments which he has consistently blamed on a lack of staffing.
The controversy has raged since May 27 when Bednark declared that opening of payment envelopes mailed to the Sumpter Water Department was not his statutory duty and announced that his office staff would no longer open payment envelopes.
In an effort to resolve the controversy, members of the township board of trustees met June 2 and unanimously voted to officially assign the duty of opening water department payments to the treasurer's office.
Bednark refused to comply with that directive which prompted continued complaints from residents regarding uncashed checks and piles of opened and unopened payments overflowing in the treasurer's office vault. Board members met again June 9 and unanimously authorized legal action to force the treasurer to comply with his statutory duties.
Bednark, who has not attended a board meeting in four months but continues to collect his more than  $19,000 annual salary, also restricted access to his office.
“The Board of Trustees must recognize it cannot usurp power over the treasurer by dictating who comes in the treasurer's secured space and/or when, only the treasurer has this authority.  I have notified my staff that it is expressly prohibited for anyone to enter the treasurer's office to work without the treasurer's prior written consent and furthermore, the treasurer or the deputy treasurer must be present during access periods.  Any unauthorized attempt to breach the treasurer's office will be met with legal action,” he stated.
Bednark was responding to Morgan's reminder that legal action against him was pending.