Hinsdale board orders audit of town clerk's office
HINSDALE, N.H. -- Concerned about possible misconduct, the Board of Selectmen has ordered an audit of the town clerk's office.
Chairman Michael J. Darcy said an internal investigation raised suspicions regarding Tammy-Jean Akeley's job performance, including poor management of money associated with motor vehicle registration, inappropriate behavior toward citizens and unexpected closings of the office.
The selectmen have addressed two letters to Akeley, as she serves as both town clerk and tax collector, and will wait up to two weeks for her response to some alleged misconduct in both offices.
"There were concerns brought up ... probably about two months ago and we started to look into it," Darcy said following Monday's meeting, adding that the situation resembled an onion, with multiple layers that needed to be peeled back.
Akeley told the Reformer she had no comment on the matter but was in contact with the New Hampshire Attorney General's office.
Darcy said the internal investigation revealed Akeley has been receiving both her salary and a $2.50 fee by citizens paying the state portion of their vehicle registrations through the town. However, state law prohibits a town clerk from doing both. Town Administrator Jill Collins said a town clerk is reimbursed with the fee only if not on salary with the town. The fees are otherwise supposed to offset the town's costs to keep the office open.
Based on the number of registered vehicles in town, it is possible Akeley has received an extra $12,000 each of her 13 years on the job, according to Collins. Akeley took over for Jean Savory, who died on Aug. 30, 2001.
Darcy told the Reformer the salary for the Hinsdale town clerk (who is contracted to work 32 hours a week) is roughly $18,000 a year. He said the selectmen have put a stop to the fees going to Akeley.
He also apologized to the public for the time it took for action to be taken but said there had been "a lot of chew over."
The selectmen are also worried about unexpected closures of the town clerk's office. There have been many reported incidents of residents going to the office for its services, only to find it closed when it was scheduled to be open. Darcy said he is confronted by angry citizens venting their frustrations every time he goes out in public.
Residents utilize the town clerk's office to, among other tasks, register vehicles and canines and access birth, marriage and death certificates.
As far as Akeley's performance as tax collector goes, the selectmen are concerned that Akeley has not been making deposits of submitted taxes in a timely manner. Darcy said money is considered deposited when it has been bagged, sealed and put into a safe for pickup by Loomis, a cash-handling service. He said there has been instances where a deposit was not made for several weeks. Akeley, he said, is also only working two hours a week when she should do 13.
One of the overlapping concerns the selectmen had in regards to both of Akeley's positions was some alleged behavioral issues. Darcy said Akeley has developed a reputation for being rude to people who come to her window for help and once even told a customer to "kiss her [expletive]."
Selectman Bernie Rideout told members of the public the poor customer service and foul language reportedly used by the town clerk is the most upsetting aspect of Akeley's performance. He said a town clerk "is part of the face of our community" and should behave much more appropriately.
Darcy said the selectmen will draft warrant articles, to be voted on at Town Meeting in 2014, aimed at preventing situations like this. He told reporters the selectmen likely will not pursue criminal charges but all want responses to the letters by Monday, Sept. 9.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.