Incumbent Julie Scheuerlein is pointing to her 19 years of service in the Town of Stafford as she seeks to fend off a challenge from Barbara Radley, who has been endorsed by all four town councilmen and the Stafford Republican Committee, in Tuesday’s primary election for town clerk.
Apparently, the battle lines have been drawn as the councilmen are calling for a change due to job performance issues. They believe that Radley, currently a deputy clerk for the Town of Byron and a former Stafford deputy clerk in Scheuerlein’s office, is the best choice.
Scheuerlein, however, disputes the board members’ and Republican committee’s position, stating that in her four years on the job – following 15 years as the municipality’s court clerk – she has served the town well despite the board’s failure to provide her with adequate training and support.
Major points of contention, per the town board, are that the Town of Stafford has not collected its own taxes over the past two years -- relinquishing that task to Genesee County after errors in the tax roll were discovered in 2019 -- and that Scheuerlein has not provided accurate and timely meeting minutes.
Early voting by registered Stafford Republicans for their next town clerk continues from noon to 5 p.m. today and Sunday at the ARC Community Center, 38 Woodrow Road, Batavia, and concludes on Election Day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stafford Town Hall.
At stake is an opportunity to represent the party in the November election. The position, which requires a commitment of 30 to 35 hours, lists a salary of around $33,000.
TOWN BOARD ISSUES A STATEMENT
Town board members issued a statement, that has made its way onto Facebook, endorsing Radley:
“It is rare for town board members to make an endorsement of a candidate. It is even rarer for all four board members to endorse the same candidate. Bob Pacer, Ron Panek, Don Mullen and Jim Duyssen have all endorsed Barb Radley.
“The Town Board needs a clerk that has a plan for a defect-free submission so that they can confidently bring back the taxes from the county. Stafford is the only town in Genesee County that has had to outsource their tax collection.
“The Town Board needs a clerk that can provide timely and accurate recording of the proceedings and propositions of each meeting. These records need to be made available to the public within two weeks of the meeting.
“The Town Board needs a clerk that provides error free services to minimize customer complaints.
“The Town Board is confident that Barb Radley can turn around the clerk’s office on these three issues.”
PANEK POINTS TO ‘ERRORS’
Contacted by The Batavian, Panek said errors in the minutes are the “biggest issue,” adding that they are finding 10 to 12 major corrections a month.
“There would be missing motions, and sometimes the motions would be listed as just the opposite of what we’d voted on,” he said. “And sometimes carrying over, using the old minutes as a carryover format, and who was actually at the meeting would be mixed up.”
Panek said that he spent time researching the New York State law, and found that “the town clerk should attend all board meetings and should record the proceedings and the propositions that are presented at the meeting.”
“Some wives’ tale that people believe is that you can only put down the motions and that’s adequate. Well, that’s not true because the law says you’re supposed to do the proceedings,” he said.
He said the town’s previous clerk, Walt Kershenski (who served from 2004-18) set the standard, “perfectly striking a balance between enough information and not enough information.”
“Now, the problem is that if they record the meeting, we get the minutes so late – sometimes two days before the next meeting. I think what is done is that they are left until the last minute and they try to use the recording to piece it together and they can’t remember exactly what took place,” he said.
STAFFORD CONTRACTS WITH COUNTY
On the tax collection issue, he said the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office found “all kinds of errors” in the 2019 roll, and had to “invest a ton of time – I know over 100 hours – into fixing the tax roll.”
After that, Genesee County took over the duties, charging the town $2,500 in 2020, and $5,000 for the just-completed 2021 collection.
Panek said the town board withheld a raise for Scheuerlein because of that – and actually cut her pay for the original $2,500.
“I had told her when she was complaining about not getting a raise that we need a plan on how you’re going to bring it back. Who are you going to get to train you? Who are you going to get – an experienced clerk – to help you through it? We got nothing,” he said.
“It’s already cost us $7,500 and now we’re hoping that the voters of Stafford will give us somebody who can do taxes.”
REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE STATEMENT
The Stafford Republican Committee, which is chaired by Panek’s wife, Mary Alice, also endorsed Radley after interviewing candidates (Scheuerlein, Radley and an undisclosed third person) in January.
Its statement is as follows:
“Barb Radley provided a presentation which gave the committee confidence they were providing the best candidate:
“1 – The county took over the tax processing due to the submission failing the audit of the tax roll. Barb’s presentation gave the committee confidence that the town board could bring the tax processing back under her direction.
“2 – Her presentation demonstrated her experience in providing a defect-free process in an environment where information must be right the first time.
“3 – Finally, the committee was confident that Barb would provide a friendly, customer-oriented environment.
“Based on this presentation, the decision was made on a single ballot with a unanimous (11-0) vote. The choice was clear.”
CHAIR: A UNANIMOUS DECISION
Mary Alice Panek said committee members voted 11-0 to endorse Radley. She said it was a combination of Radley’s experience and “some of the issues with the present day town clerk” that gave Radley the nod.
She, too, mentioned board minutes’ inaccuracies, the fact that the minutes are not posted to the town’s website in a timely fashion and “multiple errors in licensing.”
“This was from members of the committee who had encountered mistakes and had to go back to the town hall several times for marriage licensing, hunting licenses, dog licenses,” she said. “There was an issue with the handicapped parking sticker that had the wrong dates put on it and an issue where one of the funeral directors came in for a death certificate because he had to bury the person and she (Scheuerlein) told him that she was busy and he’d have to wait a couple days.”
Mary Alice Panek also said the committee talked about the tax returns, citing multiple errors and having to pay the county for the service.
The committee chair applauded Radley’s varied work history, as an employee of the Le Roy Central School District, U.S. Postal Service in Stafford and other area locations and, currently, as the deputy clerk for the Town of Byron.
“Byron submits its taxes on time and there haven’t been any issues. She certainly has a valid and successful experience as a deputy town clerk,” she said.
SCHEUERLEIN: ‘INTEGRITY ATTACKED’
Scheuerlein, part of a family of 11 who grew up in Le Roy before moving to Stafford, said that things are being blown out of proportion and faults the town board for not providing her with the tools she needed to excel after transitioning from the court system to the clerk’s office.
“When I started this job, I was never trained at all,” she said. “You would think the board would come in and ask, ‘What do you need?’ No, no, no. And then I heard from somebody at the Stafford Trading Post telling me what they were going to do with me concerning the tax issue. How do you muddy somebody’s name like that?”
She said it has come to a point where her opponents are attacking her integrity.
“At this point, it has turned into a defamation of character. How do you become a court clerk and then a town clerk, and now all of a sudden, you can’t handle a job? That’s what they’re doing,” she said. “What they’re doing doesn’t negate that I know how to do my job.
“That indicates that I started this job and didn’t know it. There are two variables here. I had a support system in the court, which is totally different than the board. Not one of those board members … come down to the office all month long; the only person who is there every day is (Supervisor) Robert Clement."
Calls yesterday to Clement for comment have not been returned.
A ‘TAXING’ SITUATION
When asked about the tax collection situation, Scheuerlein said it was a board decision to contract with Genesee County.
“There was one bounced check that caused the problem. Barb (Radley, her deputy clerk at the time) had assured me that she had secured the funds for that check,” she said. “But we didn’t have that money. It was like $1,700, off the top of my head.”
Scheuerlein said that she eventually recovered the funds after threatening to take the matter to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.
She said her mistake was that one check, “plus I counted on the person working for me.”
“That was my mistake, and what it tells me is that I shouldn’t have depended upon her.”
She said Radley abruptly quit the job in September 2019 after a year’s service.
As far as having a plan to regain tax collection responsibilities, Scheuerlein said the board has not asked for one.
“You show me where they’ve asked for that. That has never been said. What has been said is that has been taken away, and the supervisor said that he has two people right now that will handle the taxes – and one of them is extremely efficient and the other one will be just fine,” she offered.
County Treasurer Scott German said that an accounting firm recommended finding an alternative to having the town do the tax collection after the problems in 2019, but also indicated that no money was missing and there was no official audit.
A CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
Scheuerlein contends that the disclosure of information pertaining to her job by Ron and Mary Alice Panek, in the roles as town councilman and Stafford Republican Committee chair, is out of line. She also sees a conflict of interest, something that Mary Alice Panek disputes.
“As far as talking to one board member, Ron Panek, he is married to Mary Alice and there is a conflict of interest,” Scheuerlein said. “How can you, with your husband being on the town board, say the things about town business that you’re saying in public?”
When asked if her role on the Republican committee could be perceived as a conflict of interest, Mary Alice Panek replied, “Not at all. I’m not an elected official. I’m not elected by any general election. I’m just elected by the Republican committee.”
Scheuerlein also said there have been instances of board members inappropriately talking about town business in public, and took exception to having her salary reduced because the town had to pay the county for the tax services.
“This is part of what I feel is discrimination that is going on,” she said. “How can you take salary from me to pay for the tax bill? The first year that I went in, they told me to prove yourself. I said OK. The second year, they put me at one price and then they didn’t raise me the third year. And the fourth year, they took away what they paid in taxes (collection).”
She also said councilmen are “nitpicking” over the minutes -- “I know what I am writing down,” she said – and has been mostly on her own for the past year and a half. Currently, she has a part-time deputy clerk, working about four hours a week.
CLERK WANTS TO ‘BE AVAILABLE’
Beyond the social media back-and-forth, Scheuerlein said she has served the Town of Stafford proudly (she also assisted courts in Darien, Bergen and Byron) and “wants to be continue to be available in the office for the town residents.”
“We’re looking at the home stretch. Nobody can take my 19 years away from me. I never thought small town politics would go this way,” she said.
“I love my town. I’ve met a lot of nice people – going door to door and hearing what they feel. The pandemic wasn’t conducive for that. Now that we’re out of it, I’m very grateful that we can move forward with things.”
She said she is well known in the community and is confident in her abilities.
“As far as the town people, I have a lot of residents that have been supportive of me from the beginning,” she said.
RADLEY TOUTS EXPERIENCE
Radley, one of a family of eight, also grew up in Le Roy and his lived in Stafford for more than 40 years. She emphasizes her track record of successful employment in various venues, starting with food service work at Le Roy Central School for 18 years.
She said she supervised nine employees at the school, where she also served on the Character Education Committee.
From there, she worked at the Stafford Post Office for 12 years, through 2016, with the first 10 years as postmaster relief. She also spent two and a half years as the officer in charge at the Mumford post office, streamlining the operation, and also worked at the York and Warsaw post offices.
A former executive director of Stafford recreation and town hall building committee member, Radley said she worked for Scheuerlein for a year. After she left, she quickly was hired as Town of Byron deputy clerk and continues to work in that capacity.
Addressing circumstances surrounding the tax collection issue, she said, “I did as I was told.”
“As deputy, I accepted many checks that came in. And it’s up to the clerk to check and make sure that everything is in line,” she said. “As deputy clerk, I assisted her with the tax collection and would add up the daily receipts and she took it from there. It is the clerk’s responsibility to take care of taxes from there and it is the clerk’s responsibility to sign for them and make up the final tax roll. The deputies just assist.”
When asked if she left on good terms, she replied, “I felt that I wanted to leave and wanted to learn a different perspective.”
As for the election, Radley said she has “the experience, am known in the community and am knowledgeable, and I will save the town money by taking back the tax collection (should the town board vote that way).”