EDITORIAL: County clerk is more than a bookkeeper

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Last week, a short debate on The Spencer Magnet’s Facebook page questioned if the Spencer County Clerk’s primary election results demanded top billing in last week’s paper. The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes.”
While other primary races were an important part of the election and undoubtedly contributed to the county’s above-average voter turnout, this is Spencer County’s newspaper. The issues directly affecting Spencer County residents are going to be the ones that get the most ink. In the case of the primary election last Tuesday, the race affecting the greatest amount of local citizens was that of county clerk.
This has been an especially important race for the newspaper to cover given the circumstances in which previous County Clerk Judy Puckett found herself, before retiring from the office Dec. 1, 2011.
Puckett cited health issues as her reasoning for stepping down from the post, but it is important to remember that the state’s auditor of public accounts brought into question tens of thousands of dollars in relation to “undeposited receipts and inappropriate expenditures,” that occurred under Puckett’s leadership.
The audit identified $64,717 of “misused” funds and stated that Puckett should pay that money back to the county. That report was turned over to the Kentucky Attorney General’s office for review with no word yet as to if any charges will result.
But the point that local citizens should take from that investigation is this: the duties of county clerk are far reaching. Many citizens do not realize the amount of tax money, fees and responsibility that the state gives to the clerk and deputy clerks.
The Spencer County Clerk’s Office is at a pivotal point in local government history.
According to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s compilation of duties of elected county officials, the county clerk’s responsibilities are summed up in 24 pages. The commission briefly describes the responsibilities as “issuing and registering, recording and keeping various legal records, registering and purging voter rolls and conducting election and tax duties.”
Obviously, the detailed description of duties is too lengthy to list here, but here are a few that should be of particular interest to the public:
•Voter registration and records;
•Retention of election records and materials;
•Property tax bill preparation;
•Keeping records of deeds, mortgages and leases;
•The clerk chairs the county board of elections;
•The issuing of marriage licenses;
•Documenting records in relation to real estate, liens and use of personal property as collateral;
•The office of county clerk must retain custody of all voting machines acquired by the county, except when in use during an election;
•The county clerk and deputies can enforce election laws and maintain law and order at the polls and within 300 feet of the entrance to a polling place;
•The collection of various taxes and fees; and
•Report and remit all motor vehicle usage tax monies collected to the department of revenue weekly.
This short list of duties doesn’t begin to cover in detail the responsibilities of the county clerk and the deputy clerks, but it does bring to light the immense responsibility that the clerk has to the people. From overseeing fair, smooth elections and smiting voter fraud to ensuring that property tax bills are correct, it’s easy to see how a person leading this important office could easily jeopardize many of the personal freedoms we hold so dear.  
So the conclusion is this, county citizens: your clerk is much more than a bookkeeper.
Don’t assume you are not touched by this office, because you are. Please keep that in mind come November as candidates Lynn Hesselbrock and Abbigail Nation vie for your vote.