Finance Director position may not be legal, Attorney General’s Office says

Matt Perkins

Morrison County may have to distance itself from a previous proposal to create a Finance Director position.

The Attorney General’s Office has suggested that the county cannot transfer duties relating to accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and financial reporting from the elected Auditor’s Office to the appointed Administrator’s Office.

County Auditor Russ Nygren had previously said those duties were “statutorily” his, and could not and should not be transferred to an appointed official.

Nygren retained an attorney, Randolph Brown, a former Todd County Attorney, who argued as much.

Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf’s interpretation of the law differed.

Middendorf supported the legality of County Administrator Deb Gruber’s plan to combine the offices of the Auditor/Treasurer and create a Finance Director under her authority in the Administration Office. Gruber estimated cost-savings of this option to be at least $70,000 annually.

However, Nygren believed the checks and balances of government were called into question with such a move.

‘The reason I’m (fighting) this is that I feel strongly this is what the people elected me to do,” Nygren said.

Gruber said the opposite, telling county commissioners that the creation of a Finance Director under her authority would “allow for better checks and balances.”

But the battle may be over now that the Attorney General’s Office has informally weighed in.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Raschke told Middendorf that the Administrator Office’s duties include “examining the books” and “report the findings to the County Board.”

“(The law) does not authorize the administrator to directly maintain those books. To the contrary, the implication is that such books and records will continue to be maintained by other officers and departments in question, subject to ‘examination’ by the administrator,” Raschke said (View a complete copy of the Attorney General’s Office’s comments by finding this story on www.mcrecord.com and clocking on the “View full report” link).

The county is expected to renew discussions of its options for combining the Auditor/Treasurer’s offices at Tuesday’s planning session.

That meeting will take place at 8:30 a.m. in the County Board Room of the Government Center in Little Falls.

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