The Ellis County Commissioners on Monday accused Ellis County Treasurer Lisa Schlegel of spending taxpayer money to send out election material disguised as a newsletter.
"I think we’re going to have to look at her budgetary line items, including printing and binding and postage," said Commissioner Dustin Roths in a prepared statement he read at the commission’s regular meeting.
"While the bulk of Ellis County citizens are worried about unprecedented low prices of commodities, including oil and livestock and grain, 10% unemployment, and hoping to get back to work, our Treasurer found it in her budget to mail a summer newsletter to every household in the county, two-sided print, full color, on glossy stock, with a quote at the bottom that says ‘Feel Good. Don’t Worry. Be Happy,’ " Roths said.
"Frankly I would feel much more happy if I didn’t feel like my tax dollars were going to what in my opinion looks like an election document," he said.
"Commissioner, do you have any idea what that cost, by chance?" asked Commissioner Dean Haselhorst.
"I would imagine around $5,000," Roths said. "We spent $3,000 on black and white to send to every door direct mail. This is quite a bit more expensive, full color, it even has a picture of her at the bottom with sunshine and grass and other things on it."
"Commissioner Roths," said Commission Chairman Butch Schlyer, "when I got my letter, I read it, and it upset me. I told my wife, ‘This is nothing but a damn political ad paid for by the taxpayer.’ And I threw it out."
Schlegel, now in her first three-year term as county treasurer, filed recently for re-election.
Filing as a Republican, she will face off in the Tuesday, Aug. 4 primary against two other Republicans, Sherry Dryden and Vernon Ruder Jr.
Democrat Julie Mercer is also running for the office, but no other Democrats have filed.
Party candidates have until noon on Monday, June 1 to file, while independent candidates have until noon on Monday, Aug. 3.
Asked about the mailing Tuesday by The Hays Daily News, Schlegel denied the commissioners’ allegations.
"These people are completely ignorant of reality," Schlegel said of the commissioners. "Everything they say about the Treasury is untrue. Every time they bring up something about me it’s so blatantly untrue. Why? I want people to start asking. Why are they attacking me?"
Schlegel said even prior to her tenure, Treasurers have mailed out a newsletter with the annual tax statements to residents. When she took the job she added a second newsletter, posting it at the Treasury’s counters in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main, for customers to read while doing business.
With the closing of county offices for the virus, she mailed the most recent newsletter, partly to remind residents they can continue doing business by phone and Internet.
"I didn’t pay for it out of Treasury funds," Schlegel said of the newsletter. "I did not pay for it with public tax dollars."
Schlegel said she paid for the newsletter with her own personal money. The cost was $4,000, she said.
Roths in his prepared statement Monday evening blasted the newsletter for what he said were multiple errors.
"She also thought it would be fun to discuss spending done on other departments but failed to mention her trip to Washington D.C. that was taxpayer funded," Roths said.
Schlegel said Tuesday she went to Washington to attend the annual meeting of the National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers and Finance Officers.
"Kansas is one of the most active states," Schlegel said. "We’re super active in that organization and that’s how I’ve been able to make millions of dollars for this county."
Schlegel said she’s scheduled to present her budget to the commissioners at their regular May 14 meeting.
"I believe we need to take a closer look at this budget in the coming months," Roths said in his statement. "And the taxpayers need to do their part to keep this kind of spending in check."
Roths, who represents the 2nd District, has filed for re-election. He is running against Republican Neal Younger in the primary.
Haselhorst, also a Republican, is running for re-election to the 3rd District. So far he is unchallenged.