Castleton: Assistant clerk’s raise approved after delay
By Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | May 02,2014
CASTLETON — The town clerk’s assistant — who is her daughter — has finally received the raise everybody seemed to want her to have, though there was some disagreement over who had the authority to approve it.
Town Clerk Katy Thornblade early this year tried to increase Lydia Thornblade’s salary from $10.83 to $12.50 per hour. The action was referred to the Select Board when it was questioned by another town employee.
No one on the board has opposed the increase in pay, although there were some initial questions about nepotism that dissipated fairly quickly.
There was no request to give a raise to another assistant, Debbie Rosmus, which troubled some board members when it was initially addressed in February.
Thornblade defended the requested raise as one that was deserved by a five-year employee who was capable of stepping in and running the office. She added that her daughter would be trained on the new digital records program the office is getting.
That seemed to settle it for the board, but then the real philosophical question arose.
At the board’s meeting Monday, the debate became whether Thornblade could give the raise on her own or if the Select Board had that authority.
Board Chairman Joe Bruno said he had found a Vermont statute saying if a salary isn’t set by voters, it’s up to the Select Board to approve raises.
Thornblade said she had an opinion from the secretary of state’s office saying her budget is hers to spend as she sees fit, and her assistants’ salaries are her domain.
Thornblade said people are trying to interpret the law, but the secretary of state’s office’s opinion is relied upon by town clerks statewide.
Bruno said the board is just trying to handle the matter correctly.
“I don’t think anybody here is against giving your assistant a raise,” he said. “We just want to do it right.”
Despite everyone agreeing on the final outcome, the discussion of the process continued until board members realized they were going in circles.
“I want to put this thing to bed,” Bruno said.
Selectman Richard Combs was also ready to move on.
“I think we have beat this issue up enough,” Combs said. “I have no problem supporting this pay raise.”
But the board wasn’t through with the town clerk.
Selectman Joe Spaulding asked Thornblade if she could find money to open the town office Fridays, since she had enough money to give her assistant a raise.
The office is normally open Monday through Thursday.
“I’m not going to bargain that,” Thornblade said.
Then she was asked, “How about more than two days a week?”
Thornblade has been taking time off, opening the clerk’s office only Wednesdays and Thursdays in April.
Spaulding said he had a problem with the clerk she had enough money in the budget to give a raise but not enough money for increased hours.
Thornblade also asked for her daughter’s raise to be retroactive to when it was first requested in January, but the board rejected that idea.
After the board approved the pay increase unanimously, Thornblade wasn’t done.
“I resent the fact it’s been three months trying to get to this point and I find it means that it’s not retroactive,” she said. “It’s been pushed back, pushed back, pushed back.”
That didn’t go over well with Spaulding.
“I wasn’t trying to be mean to you, Katy,” Spaulding said. “I resent that. We’re trying to do the right thing here and we’re getting hammered.”
Lydia Thornblade’s raise was made retroactive after all, however. The board reversed course later in the meeting while discussing a different retroactive raise request.