While an elected auditor-treasurer would likely be able to hear concerns, too, Boettcher said the difference is that an appointed official is beholden to a boss.
Though the County Board set his office’s salary, “I really thought the only boss I had was the voting public,” he said.
That distinction would become important if, say, an auditor-treasurer found problems in a county’s finances and wanted to tell the public. If he or she were worried about criticizing their boss — the county administrator in a day-to-day sense — an appointed official might think twice before telling the public.
“Where, if you’re elected by the countywide electorate, you have some autonomy,” he said.
This change requires a four-fifths majority of the County Board, and at least one commissioner, Lance Wetzel, opposes the change.
He said that, of the 11 people who spoke at a public hearing last month, nine opposed the change to an appointed position and two supported it.
It also requires a change in law, which has to pass the Legislature and be signed by the governor. Pettis said five such bills are being considered next session for various counties. He said 28 counties statewide have an appointed auditor-treasurer, and the trend is that more are being appointed.
The County Board will consider the change during its meeting Tuesday, which begins at 9 a.m. in the Le Sueur County Courthouse.
Though the measure must be approved by four of five commissioners to take effect, the board is deciding Tuesday whether to seek legislative authority for the change. That vote merely directs staff to work toward getting a bill approved, though the four-fifths requirement would kick in during a final vote next spring. It’s not clear if the board would seek a law change if it doesn’t have four votes.
Even if the law passes and is approved by the County Board, state law allows county residents to put the measure on the ballot. Supporters of a vote would need a petition signed by 10 percent of registered voters, Pettis said.