A deputy clerk recently resigned from her duties within the city clerk’s office.
But the city council had to rehire her Monday for a month so she could finish out payroll records for the city of Yazoo City.
The rehiring of former deputy clerk Brandi Ajpacaja was accepted by the entire Board of Mayor and Aldermen. But some held several reservations about the operation of the clerk’s office, which is headed by interim city clerk Mario Edwards.
The rehiring of Ajpacaja will cost $1,200.
Ward 2 Alderman Dr. Jack Varner said Edwards has served in his capacity for too long not to be able to perform many of the duties within the city clerk’s office. Edwards was brought on board as interim city clerk 14 months ago.
Varner said four other people are being paid to do various jobs within Edwards’ office. He said that is too many people for one department.
Sarah O’Reilly-Evans, board attorney, currently keeps the minutes for the city council. She also delivered a letter of her resignation to the board last week. It remains uncertain whether the city council will accept her resignation.
There are two deputy clerks within the city clerk’s office who handle payroll records.
And an accountant is also there to handle bank balances and budgets.
“When are we going to get rid of these outside people and have the clerk’s office stand on its own,” Varner asked, this week. “I understand in the budget there is enough in salary to raise (Edwards) up to $48,000. This is beginning to be too much for me.”
Varner said he has served on the city council under four city clerks, and they all performed their jobs with fewer employees.
“We are spending money here like this, and we can’t even afford a garbage truck to pick up people’s garbage,” Varner said. “It doesn’t make good sense.”
Mayor Diane Delaware then gave the board a timeline of how the situation came to be within the city clerk’s office.
Delaware said the board accepted Ajpacaja’s resignation at its last meeting with the understanding that another individual would be hired for the same salary to handle payroll.
“In our budget round, we decided not to hire a full time deputy clerk but to hire a part time deputy clerk to handle payroll,” she explained. “But (Edwards) came forth to us on Thursday to indicate that there was some closeout that needed to be done.”
Edwards said there a number of reports and annual closeout reports that have to be completed by Ajpacaja.
“Are those not reports that you as city clerk can do,” Varner asked. “I know that she (Ajpacaja) has been doing them, but you didn’t answer my question.”
“I have not done those reports,” Edwards replied.
“Why not,” Varner pressed. “You are city clerk and getting paid for that job. You are responsible for those responsibilities. Have you not tried to learn those jobs?”
Edwards said Ajpacaja was deputy clerk before he arrived in his position, and payroll reports were her responsibility.
“I have not learned them, but I will learn them now,” Edwards continued.
Varner said Edwards is supposed to be training deputy clerks; not the other way around.
Delaware said there was a time of transition that did not go as planned.
“(Edwards) was supposed to learn how to do payroll as well, and we were to cross train all the individuals in the office as well,” she said. “There was a transition period where a payroll person would be onboard with (Ajpacaja) for about a month. But it didnt get done.”
Despite reservations among board members, Delaware said it is imperative that Ajpacaja close out the necessary reports.
“This is the lack of proper planning,” Delaware admits. “If this work was going to have to be done....there should have been a discussion between (Edwards and Ajpacaja) on how that was going to take place.”
Delaware also told the board that former city clerks have not always performed their duties either.
“We have had problems with all of our clerks,” she said. Bottom line is (Edwards) needs to be better, but we are not going to claim that the last of those (clerks) did any better.”
Delaware said Edwards is simply going to have to do a better job with his planning and preparation.
“He is aware of that,” Delaware said. “This is an area where there needs to be an improvement.”
Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. admits that there have been issues within the city clerk’s office in the past.
“But (Varner) and I weren’t doing our jobs because we weren’t checking behind (former mayor McArthur Straughter),” Brent said. “It was a very lackluster performance for our finances to end up like the way they were. I had no idea they were in that bad of shape.”
Brent thanked Delaware for improving those areas of concern within the city clerk’s department.
But he reminded Edwards that should be become the city’s full time city clerk, there is no room for other jobs.
“Should you become clerk, this is to be the only job you have because it’s a tremendous responsibility, including closeout...doing checks every month,” Brent said, to Edwards. “You need to seriously consider whether you want it or not because our ordinance doesn’t allow you to be anything but a city clerk.”
Alderman Gregory Robertson said such mistakes cannot continue.
“As lean as our budget is now, these mistakes are costing us,” Robertson said. “It may be only $1,200 but it’s $1,200 of taxpayer money. We can’t continue to do that.”