The Gila County recorder is defending her spending record against allegations raised by a Globe businessman hoping to take her seat in August.
Democratic recorder candidate Mickie Nye has made claims at recent Payson community meetings that current Gila County Recorder Sadie Jo Tomerlin, a Republican, misused thousand of dollars in county funds to buy stationery and on top of that, is offering poor customer service.
Nye, owner of a Globe Dairy Queen, insists he can do better and has the experience to back it up.
Tomerlin, however, is firing back, saying Nye has his facts all wrong.
Now, the county is supporting Tomerlin.
County Manager Don McDaniel said a thorough search of finance records found no misspending by Tomerlin’s office. Nye claims, however, that Tomerlin spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to buy county stationery, threw it away and spent thousands more to buy new letterhead reflecting a name change.
Tomerlin previously went by Tomerlin Dalton. She says she did purchase paper products, but only because the county was running low on election supplies and had to meet several new state statutes.
Specifically, Tomerlin ordered ballot affidavit envelopes, which reflect her name change as well as changes the Legislature made to the wording of the affidavits.
“We only order what is needed for each election because the statutes may change, forcing us to reorder supplies needed for the job,” she said.
While she was ordering affidavits, Tomerlin said she also ordered outgoing envelopes, early voting instructions, voter registration forms and voter identification cards because supplies were low.
“All of (these forms) which are absolutely necessary to have on hand and during an election cycle,” she said. “Regarding any other expensive stationery, we have not made any purchases of letterhead, envelopes, etc.”
To save money, the recorder’s office uses old stock before reordering.
The office is currently still using letterhead with Tomerlin Dalton on it and just used up the last box of envelopes with Tomerlin’s predecessor Linda Haught Ortega’s name on it.
“What we did with those envelopes was put a label over her name that had my name on it, saving the taxpayers money once again,” she said. “I am committed to have my offices provide the very best service at the lowest cost possible to the taxpayers of our county.”
Tomerlin admits her office has not always run under budget. In fiscal year 2008/2009, the office went $7,000 over budget.
Tomerlin says there is a very good reason for the overspending. Monies were used to buy document recording software, servers, scanners, label makers, monitors and computers.
By buying the equipment instead of leasing it, Tomerlin claims the county will save more than $100,000 a year. “All of the other years this office has been at or near $40,000 under budget since I was elected county recorder.”
Joseph Heatherly, Gila County finance director, reviewed Tomerlin’s purchases and those associated with her office from April 2007 through April 11, 2012 and “was not able to find any activities that appeared to be erroneous, duplicate or inappropriate.”
An e-mail requesting comment from Nye was not returned.
However, at both local Democratic and Republican meetings, Nye stated the recorder’s office consistently offers poor customer service.
Tomerlin said the office does receive numerous complaints, especially when someone is upset about their tax assessment or when they walk in, have their document recorded and cannot leave with the original.
“We are regulated by statute and process that we need to follow,” she said. “If there is a complaint, we forward it to the department such as the election’s office or assessor’s office for appropriate action by them.
“My policy is when someone comes into the recorder’s office and has a complaint, they are to be addressed immediately and all other work can wait.”
Nye has also made claims that the recorder’s office is politically motivated, an accusation Tomerlin says is false.
“My office works with every political party, citizen group or citizen,” she said. “We do not show favoritism. The only agenda I have is to serve the citizens of Gila County while following all statutes providing the highest service at the lowest costs possible.”