The Vanderburgh County Council and the County Recorder are at odds over funding, budgets and employee salaries.
At Wednesday morning's County Council budget hearing, councilmembers voted to change the way the staff at the County Recorder's office gets paid. Instead of the county paying the salaries, the money will now come out of the recorder's perpetuation fund. The money from that fund comes from the user fees at the recorder's office.
The council president says it's in an effort to cut costs but the recorder worries about the legality of it.
Neatly stacked in rows and bound in books, there are hundreds of thousands of deeds and agreements at the Vanderburgh County Recorder's Office. But there's an agreement you won't find.
That's because it's not an agreement at all.
"What happened [Wednesday] was the County Council followed through with their determination of not funding the staff salaries in this office," said Z Tuley, Vanderburgh County Recorder.
Instead, the money for the salaries of six employees will come from Tuley's perpetuation fund. It's set up by the state and essentially acts as a rainy day fund. It ensures the Recorder's Office can preserve the county's records as required by state law. Money generated from user fees at the office is split among several entities, including the county's general fund as well as the County Surveyor. The Recorder's Office receives a small cut of the proceeds.
When Tuley went before the County Council and Council President Tom Shetler Jr., it became contentious, Tuley says.
"[Shetler] had stated that using the perpetuation fund was more of a cooperative spirit," Tuley said. "I looked at it as a legal issue. I didn't feel like it should have been used for that. I summoned the opinion of the State Board of Accounts and they sided with me."
That they did.
State auditors say, in their opinion, the compensation of recorder's office staff is not the preservation of records. By doing so, state auditors say the practice is not in 'compliance with state law.'
Shetler says the County Council's attorney consulted with attorneys in other counties who run similar operations. It was their legal opinion that using the perpetuation fund to pay for staff salaries is, in fact, legal, according to Shetler.
"I don't have any choice," Tuley said. "As an elected official, I'm not going to lock the doors and if I needed to [pay] my staff with that fund then I don't have a choice."
Council President Shetler says it will save taxpayers close to $300,000. But Tuley worries that perpetuation fund could eventually run out.
After a contentious couple of weeks, Tuley says it's best if they agree to disagree.
"I'm done, I was done last week," Tuley said. "I hope Mr. Shetler feels the same way."