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County opts to remain with elected auditor-treasurer, recorder

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County auditor-treasurer and recorder positions will remain elected -- rather than appointed -- offices, at least for now, the County Board of Commissioners has decided.

The county commissioners dropped the idea on Tuesday, saying there isn't a strong enough case or enough of a consensus to make the change.

"Frankly it's not worth the fight on the board. ... We have bigger fish to fry," said Commissioner Harlan Madsen.

The issue had been debated for the past two months.

Kandiyohi County wouldn't have been alone in removing two statutory offices from the election ballot. Twenty-five Minnesota counties already have a recorder or auditor-treasurer who is appointed, and about 10 more counties are seeking special legislation to make a similar change, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties.

The argument in favor: The positions of auditor-treasurer and recorder are increasingly complex and demanding of skills and knowledge, yet there's no minimum requirement for someone to run for election to either office, raising the risk that an unqualified candidate might be elected.

The argument against: Appointments to the two offices would take the decision out of the hands of the voters. It might also open the process to abuse and political favors.

Madsen said he spoke to officials in a handful of other counties where the auditor-treasurer and recorder are appointed, and those counties have been satisfied with the change.

The current system is working well in Kandiyohi County, however, and it's probably not the right time to change it, he said.

"I really haven't seen any reason to change," agreed Commissioner Dean Shuck.

Nor did there appear to be strong support from the public for the idea.

Dennis Peterson, chairman of the County Board, said he heard little feedback. "Four or five of them told me to 'use your best judgment,'" he said.

Commissioner Richard Falk said he received phone calls from four constituents, only one of whom was in favor of making the positions appointed.

"Let's leave it alone," he said.

In an informal poll on the West Central Tribune's Web site, 64.5 percent of the respondents wanted the positions to remain elected and 35.5 percent favored making them appointed.

Still, county officials agreed it had been worthwhile to explore the issue.

"The whole idea was to have discussion," said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.

If the county had decided to go ahead with the change, the commissioners would either have had to adopt a resolution and put the question on a general election ballot, or seek special legislation. The offices of Kandiyohi County auditor-treasurer and recorder are next up for election in 2010.