Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell’s certified 2018 budget for his office says proposed major increases in its personnel costs are due to a study conducted on the county’s behalf, when actually almost half that money would go to give Howell annual pay raises totaling 51 percent, County Commission Chairman Bob Archer says.
Howell’s budget proposal also contains an “incredibly misleading” chart and graph outlining county and election office expenditures, Archer wrote in a letter he’s asking fellow Commissioners Shelly Buhler and Kevin Cook to support sending to Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Commissioner Bob Archer drafted a letter to send to Secretary of State Kris Kobach about the Shawnee County Election Office's proposed 2018 budget.
Howell said early Thursday evening that he hadn’t had a chance to read Archer’s letter and consequently wasn’t in a position to respond.
He stressed that commissioners asked no questions and shared no opinions after he made a budget presentation to them last week.
“Apparently, instead of giving people a chance for honest discussion, we’re just going to do trial by press,” Howell said.
The commission plans to take up the matter when it meets Monday.
Commissioners and Howell, whom Kobach appointed in 2012, have been involved in an ongoing battle over spending. In 2016, Howell spent about $1.41 million overseeing county elections, about $85,000 more than the $1,324,935 budget approved by the commission. Commissioners responded in March by cutting Howell’s salary by about 15 percent, from about $72,965 to $61,800.
The commission last week heard a presentation from Howell regarding his office’s proposed 2018 budget. That 18-page document can be found on pages 24 through 41 of the agenda packet for the July 10 commission meeting.
Archer responded Monday by accusing Howell of providing commissioners “misinformation” in that document. He crafted the proposed letter to Kobach, which can be found on pages 67 through 70 of the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting.
Archer’s letter refers to a statement in Howell’s proposed budget regarding “major budget changes,” which says $68,695 in personnel cost increases between 2016 and 2018 are “due to the CBIZ Comparability Study,” an employee compensation study conducted on the county’s behalf.
Archer’s letter said the increases the study recommends — when not taking the election commissioner’s pay into account— don’t create a major impact in the election office budget, amounting to $4,958 for wages or $5,950 for wages and benefits.
“The ‘major’ increase in this category is the Election Commissioner’s request to increase his own annual salary on Jan. 1, 2018, by $21,340.80, and then increase his annual salary again by another $10,171 on July 1, 2018, for an annual salary increase of $31,512,” Archer wrote. “This request is for a 51% increase in annual salary and is more than six times the salary increases for all other permanent employees in the office combined.”
The election office overspent its 2016 budget, Archer added.
“It is simply unacceptable for any department to overspend its budget without an adequate justification or explanation, and none was provided by the Election Commissioner,” he wrote. “There is also no justification for the salary increase submitted by the Election Commissioner for himself in his 2018 certified budget.”
Archer’s letter adds that a chart and graph outlining county and election office expenditures from recent years in Howell’s budget are “patently flawed,” and use misleading information to contend county spending is increasing at a higher rate than election office spending.
A true “apples to apples” comparison of spending between the two offices between 2008 and 2016 would show a 12.29 percent increase in county expenditures and a 19.36 percent increase in election office expenditures, Archer wrote.
His letter also raised questions about other statements Howell’s office made to the commission.
“We will be reviewing the election commissioner’s budget request and will allocate the funds that are necessary for the office,” Archer wrote. “That task is more difficult to do when a budget request contains errors and misstatements.”
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.