DTC endorses Kathleen Corbet for Town Treasurer
Updated 5:33 pm, Thursday, July 14, 2011
Last week, the Democratic Town Committee officially endorsed Corbet, who has more than 25 years of professional experience in finance, as a candidate for town treasurer this November.
V. Donald Hersam, the publisher of the New Canaan Advertiser, has held the position for more than 40 years. It's a position that has become mostly "honorary," according to Corbet, and she hopes to change all of that.
"Today, the responsibilities of the town treasurer are largely conducted by the chief financial officer, a town employee. Record keeping and reporting of the town's receipts and expenses are not readily open to inspection and have not been presented in any town meeting -- as prescribed under Connecticut State Statutes," Corbet said. "If elected to be New Canaan's newest town treasurer in more than 45 years, I pledge to be an active steward of our town's revenues and expenses; to ensure that payments are made under proper authority; to provide prudent management oversight to the town's cash balances and pension fund; to verify the legality and sign all municipal bonding; and, to maintain records and provide transparency for all financial matters under the jurisdiction of the town treasurer."
Corbet said the town treasurer, an elected position mandated by state statute, has broad oversight of the town's entire checkbook, meaning receipts and expenses. According to the State of Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 94 Town Treasurers, Section 7-80, the position is responsible for all payments made out of the town, including those "on the order of the proper authority."
That essentially means all funds must be properly authorized by the treasurer before they are paid out of New Canaan's bank account.
The role of town treasurer has recently come under fire during the Lakeview Arbitration subcommittee meetings, where it was revealed that the checks in town are given a "facsimile," or copied, signature.
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"It should be said that this is really not about me opposing Don Hersam. I have enormous respect for Mr. Hersam. I think he's a respected town figure and certainly a successful businessman and so I have only respect for him," Corbet said. "This is really about a new approach to town. It's not really about what it was, it's really about what it can be and that's what I'm hoping to bring to the role."
In terms of making the role something new, Corbet cites other towns as good examples.
"There are many examples of Connecticut municipalities -- such as Darien, Ridgefield and Wilton -- in which the elected position of town treasurer is an active -- not honorary -- role," she said. "Treasurers from these towns also serve as trustees, overseeing the money management and investments of cash balances, maintaining them at safe operating minimums and investing funds to maximize income while preserving the safety of the assets of the town."
Corbet points to her background in the departments of investing, technology, financial management and governance of pension funds and endowments as reason enough to run, but she believes her commitment to town is far more important.
"I have served as a member of New Canaan's Board of Finance, chaired the town's Best Practices in Municipal Budgeting Task Force, represented the town in collective bargaining negotiations, and I am a member of the Senior Healthcare and Housing Policy Development Team," Corbet said. "My record demonstrates my ability to work, successfully and collaboratively, with New Canaan's elected and appointed officials, employees, external constituents -- such as pension fund advisors, town attorneys, auditors -- and our citizens."
At the end of the day, Corbet simply hopes to improve a process, which she says is already quite good.
"It's important to be prudent with our finances and I think for the most part New Canaan has been prudent in terms of thinking about where funds should be spent over the long term," she said. "I think for the most part, 95 percent of the time things go very smoothly."
Still, for that 5 percent of the time that things could go astray, Corbet said she would be ready.
"That's why you do need that second set of eyes," she said. "Somebody who can look across at all the different governing bodies, Town Council, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and even the finance department of the chief financial officer, making sure we link it all together and that everything is clear and coherent."