Recorder fees focus of dispute

Butterfly Luncheon and Release Event guest speaker Stacey Adkins outside of the Sacred Heart Church on Sunday during the butterfly release.

LISBON–Columbiana County commissioners and county Recorder Theresa Bosel are at odds over where some of the recording fees charged by her office should be deposited.

Commissioners last week adopted a resolution requiring the recording fee that normally goes into Bosel’s equipment fund be deposited instead in the county general fund because of a dispute over whether she has the legal authority to continue doing so.

The recorder’s office charges a recording fee of $28, with half going to the state. Of the remaining $14, approximately $6 goes to the county general fund. The dispute is over the remaining $8 (two separate $4 fees) that has been going into the recorder’s equipment fund for the past six years.

For the $8 to go into the equipment fund, Bosel is required every year to obtain permission from commissioners. She must first submit a formal request in writing to commissioners by Oct. 1, and it must explain in detail why the recorder needs the money deposited in the equipment fund.

This process has been followed since first enacted in 2013, with commissioners granting permission allowing the money to continue to be deposited in the equipment fund for the following year. Bosel’s last request was Sept. 28, 2018, but commissioners never approved it.

At right: Attendees of the Butterfly Luncheon and Release Event releasing their butterflies on Sunday. (Photo by Julie Ried

Earlier this year, county Auditor Nancy Milliken was asked by commissioners to look into the situation, and she concluded that in her opinion the Sept. 28 letter failed to meet all of the requirements under the law. Her research also determined the other $4 fee expired Dec. 31, 2015. In the absence of the approved extensions, the entire $8 must go into the county general fund.

Milliken said she and Commissioner Mike Halleck met with Bosel on July 8 to explain the fees should be deposited in the general fund to avoid any problems until she obtains permission to resume depositing the fees into her equipment fund in 2020. The next day, Milliken said Bosel informed her she would continue depositing money in her equipment fund. Milliken than asked commissioners to pass a resolution requiring it be deposited in the general fund.

Bosel, in an emailed response, said commissioners “cannot arbitrarily” take those fees and deposit them in the county general fund unless there is a “fiscal emergency,” and that is not the case. She said even if there was an emergency, only $4 of the $8 could go into the general fund.

She said commissioners created this situation by failing to act on her Sept. 28 letter. “They have 30 days after which to put it through a meeting. For whatever reason, they didn’t,” and now they are trying to discredit her, Bosel said.

Bosel also disputed the claim her Sept. 28 letter failed to meet all of the legal requirements. “With all due respect, Ms. Milliken is wrong. My letter was completely legal and the same letter I have sent for the six years. What they are doing is illegal, and they know it,” she said.

Bosel asked Milliken to seek an opinion from the state auditor’s office, and Milliken said she is seeking an opinion from the state auditor and the county prosecutor’s office as well.

Bosel believes Milliken’s involvement in this stems from the fact she dislikes her.

“I have no feelings, one way or the other,” Milliken said. “Commissioners came to me to look into it. I did, and it’s wrong. Then, Mike Halleck and I met with her privately to get this resolved but that did not work.”

During last week’s commission meeting, the board also criticized Bosel for closing on July 5 as part of her office remodel, saying some people either called them or stopped by to complain.

Commissioner Jim Hoppel said every other office on the first floor of the courthouse has been renovated over the past 10 years, and none of them ever closed, with some of the work done on Saturdays to avoid having to do that. He said Bosel’s decision inconvenienced people who showed up at the recorder’s office that day to transact business.

“I don’t know why she closed on Friday when there were people with time-sensitive documents that needed recorded,” Hoppel said.

Bosel said the contractor applied multiple layers of polyurethane on the front desk, and she was not going to subject her staff to that, noting three of them have bad allergies. “I wasn’t going to take the chance and make one of them sick,” she said.

She also disputed how many people, if any, were inconvenienced. The Review asked how many calls or people stopped by to complain, and Commissioner Tim Weigle said he received complaints from three people. Hoppel said he heard a title company closed for the day since the recorder’s office was not open.

Weigle was also critical of Bosel recently handing out $1,000 bonuses to her four employees. “I don’t think that’s appropriate for mid year” since that is time when officeholders are trying to save money, he said.

Bosel said her staff is receiving $2,000 bonuses this year, and the money is coming directly from oil and gas companies as compensation for the extra work her employees have to put in on their behalf annually. The money is going through her books, however, but can only be used for the bonuses. She said this is nothing new.

“This has been going on for six years, so the feigned surprise and outrage about the bonuses is ridiculous and solely for the newspaper,” she said.

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