Official’s absence causes tension

FORTVILLE — Fortville town officials are at their wits’ end with Clerk-Treasurer Marcie Stafford, who they say isn’t performing her job duties.

At a town council meeting this week, members expressed concerns about her absence from meetings and town hall.

Stafford lost her bid for re-election in the May Republican primary to Sherry Durbin and hasn’t shown up for work since.

Council members said she’s not doing her job and expressed concerns about having to bring in an accounting firm to get the town’s finances and accounting in order.

O.W. Krohn and Associates, the municipal accounting firm for the town, could be hired to complete Stafford’s duties, but it would double the office’s expenses, officials said.

The clerk-treasurer has been asked to resign at least three times during her term, and council members believe she isn’t about to now with only six months left in office.

Council members could look at legal recourse, but those options likely aren’t feasible given the time until her term expires. Now they’re exploring a buyout, which Stafford says she won’t accept.

In her absence, assistants Cindy Harrison and Beth Marsh have been conducting business in the office. They’ve been working to reconcile the bank statements for April and May.

Marsh said she expects all accounts to be current in time for the council’s first meeting in July, giving the council the financial information it needs when the budget for next year is discussed later this summer.

She said she’s had no communication with Stafford during the past several weeks apart from text messages. She said she has had to reach out to outside sources for assistance with the town’s computer system and filing requirements.

“I’m trying to figure it out as I go,” Marsh said.

Stafford said she’s continuing to do her job despite her absence from the office. She said she’s been completing her duties from home.

“I do not have to work in that office or in that building,” she said.

She said she sent an email to council president Bill Hiday this week explaining that she had been advised by a doctor not to return to work in the building. Hiday confirmed he received an email but hasn’t seen a doctor’s note.

“Given Ms. Stafford’s work and attendance history, I dismissed this as a ‘dog ate my homework’ scenario and will continue to do so until I receive actual documentation,” Hiday said.

Stafford maintains she will not resign under any circumstances, including a buyout.

“I am right, and they are wrong,” she said. “Most people who are intelligent know there are two sides to every story; obviously, these people aren’t very intelligent.”

She said the reasons for accounts falling behind are varied and out of her control; then, she said the accounts aren’t behind, and council members are uninformed.

She lost the primary because she was occupied with her job, she added.

“I couldn’t even run for election because I was busy doing my job,” she said. “Therefore, I lost the election because I couldn’t even campaign for myself.”

Council members maintain they have no personal vendettas against Stafford; they just want her to perform her legal obligations.

“I’m not interested in retribution,” Hiday said. “This is about performing her statutory responsibilities.”

While the council members debated possible solutions, Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer took a slightly different angle on Stafford’s absence.

“As a department head, things have been running more smoothly the last several weeks with Cindy and Beth than the last two years with Marcie,” Knauer said.