Stith says he would cut positions in Secretary of State's Office

2014-06-09T08:00:00Z Stith says he would cut positions in Secretary of State's OfficeBy LAURA HANCOCK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
June 09, 2014 8:00 am  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Clark Stith, a Republican candidate for Wyoming secretary of state, intends to reduce the size of the office’s staff if he elected.

But Pat Arp, a deputy secretary of state who has worked in the office for years and has a job that does not change with elections, said it’s harder to cut staff than one would think.

Stith is one of four Republican candidates for the state’s No. 2 elected position. The primary is Aug. 19. In the general election, the Republican victor will face Constitution Party candidate Jennifer Young, who did not return calls for the story.

“A lot of people don’t know the depth of all the duties until they become knowledgeable about all of that,” said Arp. “They think it’ll be quite easy to cut.”

Many of the services of the Secretary of State’s Office are required by state law.

“So if you are going to reduce the number of the staff, you would likely need to look at how services you would like to eliminate or which services you would like to offer a lesser level of customer service,” she said.

In addition to administering elections and registering businesses, the Secretary of State’s Office regulates the stock brokerage industry, commercial registered agents and notaries, Arp said.

The Secretary of State’s Office works with the U.S. Department of State on apostilles, certifying American documents that are going abroad. For instance, if a couple were adopting a child overseas, the Wyoming secretary of state would certify the couple’s documents before the documents go to a foreign government, Arp said.

Stith proposes to reduce staffing levels by 9 percent. There are 31 people working in the office, he said.

“Three spots over four years is not dramatic or revolutionary,” he said. “It’s trying to right-size the government.”

Republican secretary of state candidates Pete Illoway and Ed Murray, both businessmen, would not cut staff.

“I’ve done a thorough evaluation of the staffing at the Secretary of State’s Office, and I believe they are a lean, mean, service machine without any fat on the bone,” Murray said.

Illoway, who was chairman for seven years of the legislative committee that oversees the Secretary of State’s Office, the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, said the office spends about $7 million in a biennium and brings in about $38 million from fees.

“So you’re bringing in five times what it’s costing you,” Illoway said.

Republican candidate Ed Buchanan, former speaker of the Wyoming House, will make up his mind about staffing levels if he is elected.

“Any administrator coming into a new organization should do what I would: conduct an internal self-audit, and to the extent you’re able to cut costs and become more efficient, you should do that,” he said. “I don’t have any preconceived notions of doing it before such an audit should be conducted.”

If elected, Stith wouldn’t immediately enter the office and begin cutting positions. It would take a while and possibly occur through attrition, he said.

In the Secretary of State’s Office business division, original corporate filings are paper-based, Stith said.

Stith would prompt corporations to file online. It’s faster and it’s what people expect from government, he said.

That division has about one-third of the Secretary of State’s Office employees, and online efficiencies wouldn’t require so many people, he said.

He also wants to change the form that registered agents, who are company representatives, use to help weed out fraudulent companies. If a company doesn’t have any ties to Wyoming — such as having property, sales or officers who live in the state — then the registered agents would have to reveal beneficial owners, he said.

A 2011 Reuters investigation found that Cheyenne had become a haven for shell companies, or entities on paper only, that don’t have employees and can be used to hide assets.

Colorado marijuana profiteers who cannot deposit their earnings in banks — Stith said many banks are uncomfortable with their deposits because marijuana is still illegal federally — “may be tempted to launder the money though other companies, and Wyoming could be a popular choice for them because we offer currently a high level of anonymity,” Stith said.

Stith said Wyoming has the highest rate of local, state and federal government employment in the country.

“FMC Corp. produces more soda ash every year with fewer employees,” he said of the trona mine near his hometown of Rock Springs. “They have to (in order) to stay competitive. And we have to apply that principle for state government.”

Other parts of the Secretary of State’s Office, such as the elections division, are well-run and don’t need changes, he said.

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