Cornelison resigns as county auditor

Ron Burtz

A brief and mostly uneventful meeting of the Custer County Commission Tuesday morning came to a surprising conclusion when chief deputy county auditor (formerly the county auditor) Terri Cornelison submitted her resignation to chairman Jim Lintz.
The unexpected turn of events came about during a report from Cornelison and county treasurer Dawn McLaughlin on the progress of making corrections to county books following an audit earlier this year that found numerous discrepancies.
Following remarks from McLaughlin with regard to the ongoing effort, Cornelison told the commissioners she felt she was being blamed for the problems with the books, stating that the office was “in shambles” when she took over the position.
Making reference to the move to demote her to chief deputy while the situation was worked out with the help of McLaughlin, Cornelison told the commissioners, “Then you lied about it in the paper and said I suggested it.”
As Cornelison walked to the front of the room to submit her written resignation to Lintz, she commented, “My health is more important.”
As Lintz remarked, “I don’t think we blamed you,” commissioner Craig Hindle called for the discussion to continue in executive session.
Following a lengthy closed session, Lintz reported the commission accepted Cornelison’s resignation which will become effective Sept. 20. He said the commission discussed advertising the position opening to hire a temporary auditor until the next election in 2022. He also reported that McLaughlin will continue to oversee both offices until then.
“I’ve always been in favor of a business manager,” said Lintz. “I don’t think the way things are today we can elect a person and expect them to do the job with no training.”
Lintz said the commission is discussing the idea of creating the elected position of county business manager and will possibly move to put such a plan forward before the end of the year.
Earlier in the meeting, the commission acknowledged the second reading of Ordinances 23 and 24 which create licensing provisions for medical cannabis establishments in the county and prohibit the consumption or smoking of cannabis in public places in the county. There was little discussion prior to the acknowledgment, as county officials reported they had received no feedback from members of the public following first reading approval Aug. 25.
According to the licensing ordinance, businesses that deal in medical marijuana will be required to pay a $50,000 licensing fee. The annual renewal fee will be the same amount.
County attorney Susan Anderson said an emergency clause was added to the cannabis consumption ordinance so it takes effect as soon as the measure is passed.
The commission proceeded to deal with other agenda items as it awaited the 9 a.m. time set for the public hearing on the adoption of the county’s 2022 provisional budget of $10.6 million.
At the appointed hour no one appeared to address the commission with regard to the budget, so, with little discussion among board members, the measure passed unanimously with commissioner Travis Bies absent.
A final vote on the budget measure will take place at the commission’s Sept. 22 meeting. The 2022 general fund budget represents an approximately $400,000 increase over the current year, which came in at about $5.6 million.
The commission heard an update from the county planning office on the property at Custer Highlands where there appeared to be a livable structure, water tanks and an outdoor shower, but for which no building permits had been filed. Planning director Terri Kester reported that the owner is working on getting the needed permits.

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