Support For Renier
Laurie Renier, who is currently the elected clerk-treasurer for the town of Winona Lake, and who faces opposition in the election on May 2, has recently become the focus of some less than flattering media coverage.
The town council has held multiple meetings to publicly address concerns about her ability to do her her job. It’s interesting that up until the past few weeks, when one of its own members filed to run against Laurie, the council had never raised a question about her abilities. As a matter of fact, her entire first year in office appears to have been successful; at least there’s nothing in the council’s minutes that says otherwise.
If Laurie was able to do the job without any issues last year, is it even possible that she isn’t qualified now?
Council has raised concerns about a delay in people getting paid although checks were available just a little later in the day than usual. She’s been accused of causing delays in grant funding because of complications with the year-end reporting. In the past several years as grant deputy for the county, I’ve never heard of anyone being denied funding for such issues. Since there have been no requests made to the clerk’s office by any grant agency, there’s really no evidence to support this as being anything more than a rumor unlike the many things I know to be factual but was prevented from talking about at the most recent council meeting.
Because of that, I offer the following:
I was not originally hired for my current position: I was hired as a utility clerk in July of last year. I am well aware that the duties of the previous chief deputy had been delegated to her by the former clerk treasurer, and that they had been solely carried out by her long before and all the way through Laurie’s first year in office. Multiple requests were made to implement cross-training and to have written instructions created for every procedure within the office and those requests were repeatedly ignored.
Mail was intentionally withheld from Laurie, and no explanation was given when it was discovered that invoices were not being paid on time or in full. Without warning, the former employee quit at the end of December and left a large amount of unfinished work behind. Three months of bank recs, which are required to close out the previous year, were found in a drawer.
All the receipts since the new ice rink opened were found in a folder with no way to know what any of them were for, and so many mistakes were found in payroll that our software vendor had to basically reconstruct our entire program. As just one example, it was discovered that an employee had been receiving health insurance without ever having it deducted from their pay. Another vendor actually told us the problems we were finding would have been easier to fix if the building had caught fire.
As these and so many other issues began to surface, Laurie and I reached out the State Board of Accounts, and upon its recommendation, we met with two council members and told them the SBOA’s suggestion was to address the issues at the council’s next public meeting for the purpose of transparency and so the council would be aware of the potential for some unexpected expenses that would likely be necessary in order to rectify some of the larger issues. We were told we were absolutely not bringing this up at a public meeting.
While it has never been the intention of Laurie nor myself to bring any of the actions of the former employee to light, we really have been left with no other option. The council is demanding answers, and these are the unfortunate facts that support the answers.
I believe expecting a nearly new clerk with three new employees to take over the operations of an entire town, with virtually no training, and not a single operating procedure in place, in just three months without a hiccup, is absolutely ridiculous! Have there been errors made through the process of establishing policies for every aspect of the clerk treasurer’s responsibilities? Of course, but without Laurie’s previous experience as an elected official and her dedication to her community and the job she loves, I can only speculate, but I believe, the council would have a very different list of concerns today.
Laurie Renier is profoundly qualified to continue in her role as Winona Lake’s clerk-treasurer. She is a “boots on the ground” kind of leader, and in 15 years, I have never known her not to embrace a challenge with a great big smile on her face. She clearly enjoys serving the public, as she has done so for well over 30 years.
I pray for this community and I encourage everyone to cast their vote for a worker, someone who has proven she will work hard for her community, even through the toughest challenges.
Winona Lake Chief Clerk Deputy Teena Pence