April 15, 2014


City leaders expanded their expectations of the Audubon city clerk Monday when they approved a job description that requires the clerk to be an economic-development leader, state and federal grant writer and city website maintainer, in addition to numerous other day-to-day responsibilities that include bookkeeper and personnel manager and the annual job of preparing the city's budget.

"There's no doubt we have high expectations," said Councilman Jason Hocker, who assembled the new job description amid a push to "move the city forward" from "decades of neglect and poor management."

The city council has worked for months to hire a new city clerk to replace clerk Lora Hansen, who has had the job for 26 years.

Hocker and Councilman Tom Nielsen, who started their first terms on the council in January, have been critical of Hansen's handling of the city's finances and annual budget. At Monday's meeting, Nielsen complained that Hansen hadn't produced any financial updates for the council since January.

Hansen bowed her head and mouthed the word "Wow."

The city clerk job has been a point of contention in Audubon since Jan. 13, when the council abruptly voted to replace Hansen but broke two state laws in the process. The issue has dragged out for months as the city erred in advertising for the job and waffled on whether to fire Hansen.

City Attorney Dave Wiederstein is negotiating a severance deal with Hansen that might result in her resignation. He had hoped reach an agreement by Monday's meeting, but the council took no vote and didn't discuss it. Hansen has declined to talk publicly about the negotiations.

The council's unanimous adoption Monday night of a job description for the new clerk was a major step toward replacing Hansen, but its scope drew criticism from some residents who questioned whether it is possible for one person to do all the work.

Hocker said the clerk will receive some help from a deputy clerk and that the council will consider increasing the clerk's base salary.

Hansen's base salary is $37,000, which is nearly $20,000 shy of the city administrator of Manning, whose job description is similar.

Hocker read the new four-page, 1,000-word job description aloud during Monday's meeting - at the request of Audubon County Attorney Fran Anderson - because there were no printed copies for the audience of more than 50 residents. Fire Chief John Ballou seized the moment to reiterate his distrust of the council, a common theme in recent meetings from some residents.

"We don't trust you anymore," Ballou said. "It's going to be a long time before you get our trust back."

Mayor Sam Kauffman said Monday he has received eight city clerk applications.

The council's next regular meeting is April 28.