Commissioners vote for Sievers '10 budget

by Rebecca Cress | 2/25/09 3:51am

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The Grafton County Commissioners voted to approve the new budget proposed by Vanessa Sievers '10 at their Tuesday meeting.
by The Dartmouth and The Dartmouth and Hank Nelson / The Dartmouth

Sievers, a Democrat who was elected to the position last November, had been criticized for allegedly mishandling the county's investments. One of Sievers' first responsibilities upon taking office was to reinvest $11 million that former treasurer Carol Elliott had temporarily set aside during the transition period between treasurers. Sievers could have reinvested those funds as early as Jan. 22, provided her reinvestment plan was approved by the county commissioners, according to county executive director Julie Clough.

Sievers did not submit an investment plan until earlier this month. The commissioners rejected the plan at their Feb. 10 meeting

Both commissioner Martha Richards, a Democrat, and Clough had expressed concerns to The Dartmouth that, by not investing the funds in accounts with higher interest rates, Sievers was costing the county money.

Sievers' original proposal was "not acceptable," commissioner Ray Burton, a Republican, said in an interview prior to Tuesday's vote, although he would not specify which details of the plan he opposed.

"I've been on the board 18 years, and we have never experienced any problem of this nature," Burton said.

Sievers attributed any loss in investment returns to Elliott's decision to invest in an account with 1-percent interest, adding that she reinvested the funds in an account earning 1.49-percent interest when she learned that she could temporarily transfer the money prior to approval from the commissioners for a more long-term investment strategy.

Elliott declined to comment when contacted by The Dartmouth.

Sievers also said the reinvestment process was slowed because her name was not listed on the temporary account

"I don't know whether that was done out of ignorance, apathy or apoplexy," county register of deeds Bill Sharp, a Democrat, said.

Burton said he assumed Sievers' name had been on the account.

Burton, in an interview before the Tuesday meeting, said that any new budget plan would have to allocate the county funds, now totaling $8.25 million, among banks located throughout Grafton County. The new plan does so, according to Sievers, who said the money will be invested in five different banks.

The budget calls for investing $3.75 million in insured "liquid" accounts with high returns on interest. Another $4.5 million will be invested in insured CDs.

Both Richards and commissioner Michael Cryans, another Democrat, voiced their support for Sievers' plan.

"We can't unwind the proverbial clock, but we can move forward and get this done," Cryans said.

The effort to replace Sievers, which would have needed a vote of no confidence, was politically motivated, and not a reflection of Sievers' behavior, Sharp said.

"She's being maliciously maligned by this Ray Burton guy," Sharp said.

Another issue raised at yesterday's meeting was Sievers' reliance on e-mail, which some have said may have hindered communication between Sievers and the other elected officials. At the meeting, Richards attributed the problem to generational differences.

"Kids these days have different ways of communicating from us old geezers," Richards said.

To increase transparency, Sievers said she has created a web site for the office of the treasurer. Eventually, it will include information about proposals and current investments, as well as a blog, she said. Sievers said she has already received feedback through the site's "Contact Me" feature.

Staff writer Hank Nelson contributed to the reporting of this article.