Annual town meeting dissolves into finger pointing, arguing after past clerk’s misdeeds come to light; town board at center of blame
By Brandi Makuski
Tuesday’s annual town meeting in Dewey was a heated one, quickly leaving agenda topics in the dust and turning into nearly 90 minutes of bickering not typical of a municipal meeting.
At the crux of the discussion was the town’s 2015 financial report, which some say was left in ruin by former Town Clerk Todd Pazdra, who resigned without warning on Feb. 26.
“The financial report was not done,” said Judy Zdroik, the former town treasurer who was appointed to fill the remainder of Pazdra’s term by Town Chairman Dennis Hintz.
“Todd left a lot of loose ends,” Hintz told about 25 of the town’s 975 residents in attendance, many of whom showed up for information on the 2015 financial report listed on the meeting agenda. “I haven’t had a chance to sit down with this new clerk yet and go through, line by line, and figure everything out. So my hands are kind of tied until we can give you actual numbers.”
Town officials, who had trouble keeping the meeting on track Tuesday, say Pazdra did virtually no record-keeping, made double payments on multiple invoices and did not file the town’s quarterly tax documents. He also reportedly distributed W-2 forms late to town employees, in violation of state law, and in some cases had no employee W-4 forms on file.
Hintz, who was elected last April, places the blame solely on Pazdra. When Zdroik pointed out the three-member town board, the members of which approve every invoice, was just as much to blame because they did not question Pazdra’s practices, Hintz only shrugged and said, “I’m not a numbers guy…you guys are all looking at me, you all have questions, but I’m not a financial guy; I relied on my clerk.”
“[Pazdra] has caused us a lot of financial problems here,” Zdroik told the residents in attendance. “But it’s not just him. Invoices were signed and approved by your board; so you can’t point fingers at just him. If the board doesn’t know what it’s signing, then the board shouldn’t sign it. The town residents deserve a hell of a lot more than they’re getting.”
When residents pressed Hintz for details on how the poor record-keeping went unchecked for so long, Hintz said it was because he had a difficult time contacting Pazdra.
“Eight months after the first six months of trying to communicate with Todd, I could see we were going nowhere,” Hintz said. “In fact, when I was elected Maurice [King, Hintz’s predecessor] said to me, ‘Good luck with Todd,’ and I found that out to be true. Todd was very hard to get a hold of to get information out of.”
Town Supervisor Tim Pazdra, brother of the former clerk, said during her time as treasurer, Zdroik never reported any problems with Todd Pazdra’s work, and accused her of exaggerating the poor state of the town books because she was having a difficult time transitioning into the position.
“I know it’s a lot to take on, but I don’t know if everything’s as screwed up as you’re making it seem,” Tim Pazdra said.
“Yes it is,” Zdroik fired back. “What I found was your quarterly reports weren’t being filed with the IRS, he was using the wrong year withholding tax forms, the W-2s were issued wrong, you had the wrong payroll tax reported, double payments on invoices…there were duplicate payments, there were wrong payments, there were over payments, there were some underpayments. I found this because I went back into 2015. He did nothing for 2015.”
Zdroik also said Todd Pazdra’s town-owned laptop was returned as unusable and records couldn’t be retrieved, though some of the board disputed that statement.
Residents quickly began to question the board’s control over town finances.
“As chairman, you should have known what was going on just as well as the clerk,” one resident said.
“Yeah, the board should be just as informed as the clerk, and should be questioning things they don’t understand,” another resident said.
Hintz replied to both statements with, “Yep, yep, you’re right.”
Town Supervisor Jerry Kizewski said residents had valid concerns, but then said the clerk was the highest paid position in the town, and said supervisors weren’t paid enough to do extra work.
“We need to be knowledgeable about [town finances], yes, but I just talked to a supervisor up northwest of Marshfield; their supervisors are getting $300 a month, but they’re not getting that $50 per meeting [per diem] and they’re expected to pitch in,” Kizewski said, then added, “I guess you have to show me somebody, today, who is willing to work for nothing.”
Residents in the room scoffed in disbelief at Kizewski’s statement, with many simultaneously asking why he ran for office in the first place if all he cared about was money.
“I chose to serve the people as well as I could for what I was getting paid,” he said.
“Uh, no, you were elected to serve a job; you knew what the pay was when you signed up,” another resident angrily called from the back of the room.
Supervisor Tim Pazdra agreed with Kizewski’s remarks, also saying he did not believe there was a specific job description for town supervisors to follow, which several in the audience, along with Zdroik, disputed.
Zdroik pointed out the whole mess could have been avoided had she not lost the last election to Todd Pazdra. Zdroik claims Hintz “went house to house” telling people to vote for Todd Pazdra instead because he was a “team player” and she was not.
Soon, residents had taken over the meeting, arguing topics ranging from why the town’s road committee was disbanded to grants the town is not eligible for, to poor communication from the town board.
When residents asked why they weren’t notified by mail in February of Todd Pazdra’s resignation and the discovery of financial problems that followed, Hintz said he “didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.”
“In my defense, with the stuff going on with the clerk issues here, there was nothing good that was going to come out of what I had to say,” Hintz said. “All I can do is apologize and try to do better from here on out.”
Dewey resident Dennis Meis, who is a former town supervisor, also took advantage of the poorly-chaired meeting, complaining the town’s fire department would loose grant opportunities because of emergency training classes the town chairman hadn’t yet taken.
“As far as grants for the fire department, we’re not going to get any until you take ISO 100, 200 and 700, and that’s the third time I’ve told you,” Meis said, referring to emergency training which makes the town eligible to fire dept. grants and lower insurance rates. “If you’re not good on a computer, I don’t know what you’re going to do, but you’ve got to take those three tests, because we’re not going to get any grant money without them.”
Another town resident, Bob Fenske, momentarily took over meeting and announced he was about to utilize Robert’s Rules of Order by calling for an immediate vote to approve a resolution changing the clerk position from an elected position to an appointed one, an item which was not on the meeting agenda.
When others in the room explained to Fenske such an expedient vote would violate state law, Fenske then said he “just wanted to see” how those in attendance felt on the issue, taking an unofficial partial vote of those in the room.
Zdroik then attempted to bring the meeting back to the agenda discussion.
“We need to realize the IRS is not done with us,” she said. “We’ve got about $2,000 in fines so far with more coming, and the fines accrue daily.”
All told, the meeting lasted 95 minutes.
The history of Dewey’s town government is a troubled one. Last July, former Town Supervisor Dennis Meis accused the then-newly elected board it was violating state law by attempting to hire a new town employee without due process, and of holding a board quorum without publicly noticing the meeting.
Last October, Hintz had to call 911 when two of the town’s residents began fighting over whether or not one of them could legally tape record a town board meeting.
In 2013, the town residents came after then-Chairman Maurice King alleging the town board was ignored the results of a referendum on a new fire truck and town hall remodel.
Additional meetings for the Town of Dewey can be found on its website www.townofdeweywi.com.