Lake Geneva comptroller out; may have been blamed for credit card oversight

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Kayla Bunge
Friday, September 26, 2008
— Deb Gilbert said she was just getting comfortable as city comptroller and is upset the city council Monday decided not to renew her contract.

“It generally takes three to five years for a finance director to get solid with a community,” she said. “It takes a long time. We were just getting to that point. I felt that things were really turning around, that we could make some change, here, that would be good for the city.”

The city council voted 7-1 to not renew her contract.

Gilbert has been comptroller for about three years, and she will continue in her position through the end of the year.

Others didn’t share Gilbert’s perspective, Mayor Bill Chesen said.

“We had hoped that things would be different,” he said. “They’re not, and it’s in the best interest of everyone not to renew the contract.”

Alderman Gary Dunham, chairman of the finance committee and the lone dissenting vote, said some people might have blamed Gilbert for a case involving misuse of library credit cards.

Mercedes Mogensen, who was fired from the Lake Geneva Public Library in June, is accused of stealing $18,500 from the library and charging $70,000 in personal purchases on the library’s credit card.

Dunham said some members of the council used the library situation as a “catalyst” to address other problems with Gilbert.

“Although it’s not her direct responsibility, some people thought that she should have seen it and known about it,” Dunham said.

Dunham said Gilbert also wasn’t being used to the best of her abilities—she often served as a “glorified bookkeeper,” he said—which might have fostered a negative perception of her performance.

Gilbert said she was responsible for too much, including payroll and data entry, duties that are better suited to someone other than the comptroller.

“How do I get the comptroller job done when most of my time is spent on daily work?” she said. “It’s really ridiculous.”

Dunham said the city budgeted to hire a full-time employee to take care of payroll and other human resources-related duties. The city council, he said, has been reluctant to approve such a position.

Gilbert said the extra help would have relieved a number of people at city hall who are overwhelmed with work. She said she determined there would be enough work to occupy a person in that position for 277 days out of the year. The average city hall employee works 245 days a year, she said.

Dunham said Gilbert is leaving on a good note.

“The city’s finances are on a cleaner note than they’ve ever been,” he said.

Gilbert will continue as comptroller through the end of the year while the city advertises the position and interviews candidates.

Last updated: 10:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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