County treasurer defends mailing to employees
Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders fired off an angry letter to the editor of The Times, which was published on July 12. Ms. Flanders took issue with a news story on the county budget process (County manager cautions bosses on budget and dwindling reserve) and an editorial critical of county budget machinations (County budget mythology), both published one week earlier on July 5.
Ms. Flanders also put copies of her letter to the editor in the pay envelopes of county workers last week, a move that attracted some criticism.
The editorial said that, "balancing the county budget has meant a paper exercise in which revenue projections were inflated to cover costs that were underestimated. It's no different this year."
Ms. Flanders, who was re-elected to a six-year term and is paid an annual salary of $86,526 to oversee the financial affairs of Dukes County, described that view as "a blatant lie."
She wrote, "We - county treasurer, county manager, countycommissioners, county advisory board and the county government finance review board - have been extremely careful about not balancing the budget by artificially and unreasonablyinflating revenue."
Ms. Flanders included a list of county figures and accomplishments and she noted that FY 2008 revenue projections "have been reduced more than $100,000."
She said that the citizens of the County of Dukes County look to the media to stay informed. For her part, Ms. Flanders took it upon herself to inform county employees.
On Monday, a county employee who asked not to be identified because of possible workplace repercussions, walked into The Times office and said that his paycheck envelope included a copy of Ms. Flanders's letter to the editor.
On Tuesday, Ms. Flanders said that she decided to send a copy of the letter to all county employees because "some of the employees are not as up with information about what the county does; some are pretty far removed." As an example, she said that someone who began work in the Sheriff's Department in the past year might not know all of the issues. "So, it was important for all of the employees to also have the information so that they could rebut anything that people may say to them," she said.
Told that The Times learned about the paycheck enclosure from an employee who thought it was inappropriate, Ms. Flanders said that if that is the case, the employee should contact her and she would discuss it with the county commissioners to see if they think it was inappropriate.
Asked to comment, long-time West Tisbury county commissioner John Alley, who was unaware of Ms. Flanders's action, said, "Generally, a letter to the editor is just that."
Tristan Israel, Tisbury county commissioner and a member of the county finance advisory board, said he also was not aware that a letter was inserted into paychecks and described it as "not using good judgment."
County commission chairman Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs said he preferred to make no comment.