MARSHALL - After much talk at past meetings, members of the Lyon County Board took the first step in the direction of having an appointed county recorder and auditor/treasurer at their regular meeting Tuesday. County commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of requesting to appoint candidates to the two offices, instead of electing them.
However, Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg cautioned board members, the final decision is still far off.
"We are just at the beginning of a very long road," he said.
The possibility of making the offices of county recorder and auditor/treasurer appointed was brought up at past county board meetings, most recently in September. Appointing the two offices could allow for changes that could increase efficiency for the county, and would help ensure that officials are selected for their skills and background, Stomberg said. Part of the past discussion focused on the timing of making a switch. One opportunity to change to an appointed auditor/treasurer would come after current Auditor/Treasurer Paula VanOverbeke's term ends in 2014.
Stomberg said Tuesday that other Minnesota counties, including Kandiyohi County, would be seeking special legislation which would give them the ability to decide to appoint auditor/treasurers and recorders. The Kandiyohi County Board would be discussing the issue Tuesday, he said.
"There is an opportunity, so I'm bringing it back to the board," Stomberg said.
If commissioners wanted to pursue a bill this year, Stomberg said, there was some urgency in order to meet legislative deadlines.
In order to change the offices of auditor/treasurer and recorder from elected to appointed, the county would need special legislation passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton. The bill would give the county permission to make the change, Stomberg said, but the county board would still need to advertise and hold a public hearing before passing a resolution.
The bill would also have to be open to public petitions for a referendum on the question, Stomberg said. At least 10 percent of registered voters in Lyon County would need to sign a petition in order to put the question of appointive/elective offices to a public vote.
If a resolution to appoint county auditor/treasurers and recorders is approved, "Is there a point of no return?" asked Commissioner Rodney Stensrud.
Stomberg said state law allows the positions to go back to being elected after three years. That can be done either by a resolution of the county board or by a public petition.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of asking for state permission to make the offices appointive. Commissioner Rick Anderson cast the vote against, and Commissioner Mark Goodenow was absent from Tuesday's meeting.
The next step in the process, Stomberg said, would be asking legislators to sponsor a bill.