Supervisors stand by hiring of Karrels after she came under fire from radio show host for salary miscalculation
The Port Washington Town Board on Monday gave Town Clerk Cheryl Karrels a ringing endorsement and reappointed her to a one-year term, settling, officials hope, any questions about her performance.
The town came under fire earlier this month from WISN radio talk show host Mark Belling after Karrels mistakenly overpaid herself because of an error in a resolution approved by the board. Karrels refunded the overpayment as soon as the mistake was realized.
Town Chairman Jim Melichar called it an honest mistake and said if anyone is to blame it’s him because he didn’t catch the error before the ordinance was approved.
Although the board on Monday voted unanimously to reappoint Karrels, members disagreed over how much she should be paid. According to the resolution approved by Melichar and Supr. Mike Didier, Karrels’ salary will remain at $35,100 a year. She is also eligible to receive a maximum of 60 per diem payments of $50 for attending meetings and training sessions.
Supr. Jim Rychtik, who voted against the measure, argued Karrels should be paid $39,000 a year, the same salary former clerk Jennifer Schlenvogt received.
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re doing a great job,” Rychtik told Karrels. “Everything is getting done.”
Karrels, however, said she doesn’t want more money.
“I wasn’t looking for a raise,” she said. “And the 60 per diem (payments) ... that’s a lot.”
During an interview, Karrels added, “I didn’t want to be just handed a raise. This will be a big election year. I want to earn a raise.”
Karrels said the town should instead consider increasing the number of per diem payments for Treasurer Mary Sampont, who is eligible to receive only 29 payments.
“Mary puts in all these hours collecting taxes and doesn’t get paid for them,” Karrels said.
Town officials seemed to agree but noted that because Sampont is an elected official, her compensation is set by town electors. They said the issue could be considered during the meeting of the electors in spring.
Picked from several candidates, Karrels was named clerk in July to succeed Schlenvogt, who resigned on June 30.
According to the minutes of the July 10 Town Board meeting, officials agreed to pay Karrels 10% less than Schlenvogt, which amounted to $35,100. However, the resolution formally appointing Karrels clerk erroneously listed the salary at $37,000.
Karrels said that when she began work on July 15, she found the resolution on her desk and, unaware of the mistake, used it to determine her pay.
After the mistake was discovered and Town Attorney Steve Cain said on Dec. 8 that he interpreted the documents to mean she should be paid $35,100 plus per diem pay, Karrels said she calculated the overpayment and wrote a check to the town for that amount.
“I wanted it clean and done immediately,” she said earlier this month.
Melichar said he believes the mistake occurred because Cain added per diem payments to Schlenvogt’s salary, then reduced the total amount by 10% when calculating Karrels’ salary instead of just using Schlenvogt’s annual salary.
“It was an oversight by all of us,” Melichar said. “I’ll take responsibility because I’m the chairman.”