Appointed clerk right move for city

Published 12:18 am Sunday, November 9, 2014

We applaud the City of Natchez for beginning to make a plan for fixing what has been a financial nightmare of late.

Changing the role of city clerk from an elected office to an appointed position makes great sense and allows city leaders to mandate higher standards of qualifications and experience in what is arguably the position of the city’s chief financial officer.

Natchez has struggled with its financial records keeping for several years after a former worker in the city clerk’s office died, taking with him key knowledge of the city’s old computer system.

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The lack of institutional knowledge, in part, led the city to acquire new financial software, which proved to have a high learning curve and necessitated the hiring of additional accountants.

Late audits, unclear monthly financial reports and what was arguably the worst budget season in the city’s recent history all have proven the standards for the office must be raised.

Aldermen plan to research what other cities across the state require of city clerks so they can create a list of job qualifications.

We urge city leaders to do two additional things.

First, we urge aldermen to realize that such a highly qualified government accountant may not come cheap, so research the market and pay the going rate. The investment should prove worthwhile down the road.

Second, rather than wait until just a month or two out, we hope the city will hire the person at least a year from when the official change takes effect. We realize the person could not take on the official title and role until the change takes effect, but hiring the person earlier could help prevent another budget and audit debacle again next year.

Call the interim position city accountant for all we care, but we simply need someone qualified to watch over the city’s finances, sooner rather than later.