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MALTA: Debate over clerk's office heats up

The Malta Town Council typically makes few remarks when approving the recorded minutes of a previous meeting. They might correct a typo or clarify a statement. More often than not, the minutes are approved without discussion. At the board's Monday, Feb. 5, however, a review of the January minutes sparked serious allegations by Councilwoman Sue Nolen about the way town clerk Flo Sickels and her office function.

I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Malta to see that their tax dollars are used wisely, and the concerns I am about to express relate to this duty that I take very seriously, said Nolen, who read from a prepared statement in response to comments Sickels made at the Jan. 2 board meeting about the recently extended hours at the clerk's office.

At the January meeting, Sickels said her deputy clerk had increased her hours from 35 to 40 to accommodate the new office hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, and she made a verbal request to the town board to consider increasing the budget to help cover the costs.

Nolen said it was this request that prompted her own inquiry into the operation of the town clerk's office.

Nolen said her three main concerns were about the qualifications of the employees in the clerk's office, the number of hours worked by those employees and salaries that are not in line with the work being done.

"Several disturbing facts emerged from my examination," said Nolen. "An inexperienced deputy town clerk who does not possess the requisite skills, including not being a notary, has been placed in charge of the office by the town clerk during one of the peak hours of operation, thereby jeopardizing the level of service to the town residents," she added, referring to the part-time clerk who covers office duties from 4-5 p.m. because Sickels and her deputy both leave at 4 p.m.

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