Newfane Town Clerk asks board for funds to keep her assistant

NEWFANE — In an effort to continue the employment of Newfane's Assistant Town Clerk Deidre Dunham, Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli approached the Selectboard for permission to tap a portion of unused office funds to close the difference as the fiscal year comes to a close.

Dunham initially became assistant town clerk through Vermont Associates for Training and Development, ( an area nonprofit that provides training and jobs for older workers. During her tenure, Dunham has focused the majority of her time digitizing town records for preservation.

Following the widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, state law was changed allowing digital archiving in lieu of microfilm.

Cristelli said she hoped to tap into the town clerk preservation funds, totaling some $2,500, to pay some of Dunham's salary so as to retain her until the 2013 fiscal year ends on June 30. The regular fund for the town clerk's office is over budget, she said.

Before bringing her proposal before the Selectboard, Cristelli said she contacted the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which confirmed that were no laws prohibit using such funds for wages. She also confirmed that funds had been reallocated for the same reasons by both Wilmington Town Clerk Susan Haughwout and by the town of Vernon.

Cristelli described Dunham as both highly capable and well trained, and called for the Selectboard's support.

That said, Selectboard chair Jonathan Mack said he wanted more hard data.

Newfane residents pulled for Cristelli's proposal.

Resident Kelsang Jamkar, who was responsible for Vermont Associates first offering a job through the town clerk's office, felt that continuing Dunham's employment at the town offices would help justify them putting people there in the first place.

“One thing you can demonstrate to [Vermont Associates] is appreciation,” he said. “It would motivate them to keep someone here.”

Putney resident Faith Martin, who, as part of her job has worked with town clerks throughout the state, said she felt that the town clerk's office was one of the most important in a town.

“It's really vital that you keep [Dunham] here - you're opening the town up to lawsuits,” Martin said. “Whether you know it or not, a town clerk's role isn't dog licenses or fishing licenses, his or her position is to protect the town from liability.”

Mack tabled the discussion until their upcoming meeting, requesting more numerical details prior to making a final decision on the matter.

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