Deputy treasurer loses job after filing for office

Treasurer, former deputy give versions of events within office
By Adam Strunk

Harvey County Treasurer Becky Fields fired Deputy Treasurer Amy Perkins after Perkins filed to run against Fields for the county treasurer position.
That’s according to Perkins. Perkins has served as the deputy treasurer since November 2022. She filed for office on May 8 and said she informed Fields that day of her plans.
“She told me to ‘consider this your last day,’” Perkins said. “I said, ‘Good luck running the office’ and packed up.”
Fields declined to discuss the interaction, saying it was a personnel matter and she couldn’t speak on it.
“I can’t confirm it or deny it,” she said of Perkins’s dismissal.

What happened?

Perkins has been second in command at the treasurer’s office since Fields appointed Perkins as her deputy treasurer in November of 2022. Perkins provided two separate employee annual reviews. In both, Perkins received top evaluations in every category from Fields.
They previously worked together at Newton Medical Center. The two navigated the transition after voters elected Fields to fill an unexpired two-year term.
At the time , the driver’s license office had closed down, following the resignation and retirement of employees. It then opened on a limited basis and finally re-opened on Feb. 27 of last year as positions were filled and staff was trained.
“I can totally depend on her to run the show in my absence,” the review from November 2023 states. “I am thankful daily for Amy and her dedication to Harvey County.”
The reviews are signed both by Fields and Perkins. The employee review sheets match examples of other sheets from the county, and the signature on the sheets matched Fields’s signature on other documents.
Perkins said, as the job continued, Fields leaned heavily on her during her time as deputy treasurer.
“I’ve been the one that does the majority of the work,” she said. “I didn’t do the tax distribution, as I felt she needed to do something, as she earned the paycheck.”
Perkins said she turned in her paperwork to run for office on May 8. Perkins said she had a conversation with County Clerk Rick Piepho about her talking to Fields before Piepho posted online that she had filed. Piepho was contacted for this story and confirmed that the conversation took place.
Perkins said she informed Fields of her decision to run for office.
“She asked me, ‘Why?'” Perkins said.
Perkins said she explained that her reason for running had to do with Fields frequently being absent from the office.
Perkins said Fields told her in the past that she didn’t always need to be present.
“She said, ‘I’m elected. I don’t have to be here,’” Perkins recounted.
Fields was asked about the statement.
“I didn’t say that, no,” she said. “You got to be here to know what’s going on. But legally, that’s true. But if you want to know what’s going on, you need to [be here].”

Absences

Perkins held that Fields was regularly absent from the office. When asked, she provided an Excel spreadsheet she said she kept with dates when Fields was absent, late, or left early, based on phone calls and text messages she said she received from Fields.
The spreadsheet showed Fields was absent for 134 days. For context, Harvey County Now looked at dates the office was open, dating back to that time period, which amounted to approximately 334 days.
Fields said she had daily bank deposit records for all but 107 days she’s been on the job. She said for those 107 days, her not having the record doesn’t mean she wasn’t there all those days. She said, on some of those days, Perkins picked up the records.
Fields explained her absences as health-related. She said she had a daughter in the ICU last March. She said her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had two surgeries that she was off for. She said she was then off for stretches of time after contracting COVID-19, having it turn into long COVID-19, and then having an additional medical issue caused by the COVID-19 infection. She also had a rotator cuff surgery and physical therapy, which kept her out of the office.
“As far as taking off and going on a cruise, no. I’ve not taken a vacation or a lunch hour. I’ve been in this office every day unless I was with my daughter, my husband or I was sick. God forbid that happen to her.”
Perkins held that Fields was regularly late 84 times since the start of 2023 and left early at least 15 times.
Fields said that wasn’t the case.
“I don’t take a lunch break,” she said. “I’m here at 8 o’clock” She said she doesn’t leave until the end of the day when accounts are balanced.
As for office attendance, it’s hard to independently verify information either way. County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber confirmed that the county does not keep track of when an elected official shows up to their office like they would the hourly employees, which the county also pays. The treasurer position is paid $75,958 annually, according to county budget documents.

Messed up payments

Following a Facebook post where Perkins outlined her candidacy and discussed some of the details reported above, Fields put out a post, blaming Perkins for a mistake made in how out-of-county funds were transported to various fire districts and watersheds.
In a nutshell, treasurers for neighboring counties collect tax revenues to be paid into these local districts. These local districts often stretch over the county border.
Fields said Perkins was in charge of handling the revenues and making sure they ended up in the proper accounts.
“I have a folder that says how to do this,” Fields said. “She was entering all of those into the same fire district, and there were districts not getting the money they needed. She blamed me for not having the right instructions.”
Both women said their relationship following the issue became more distant.
Fields said the discrepancies amounted to between $100 and $10,000,and she became aware of the issue in April.
“I reached out to every district after I told them there was a problem,” she said. “Then I had to hand figure everything and had to get it switched around and entered into the computer, and that was the only way to do it.”
Harvey County Now reached out to the Walton Fire District, one of the districts Fields mentioned, and they confirmed they’d been overpaid by the county and then had to send the money back.
Perkins said she received little training on how to handle the matter and that she was following the instructions Fields provided on how to handle the funds. She said she did the work, but she didn’t send out or sign the checks.
“She’s supposed to review them beforehand,” Perkins said. “There’s always supposed to be a double check.”
Fields was asked about the county treasurer position’s overall responsibility in the matter.
“I thought she was competent and loyal,” she said. “Why would I second guess her?”
Perkins said after she was terminated on May 8, she did request an official reason for her termination from the county. She said the check issue was listed on the document.
She asked, if the checks error was the number one issue, why Fields would wait until May 8 to fire her after she filed for election.

Moving forward

Perkins’s position as deputy treasurer served at the pleasure of the treasurer. Swartzendruber explained that such positions can be appointed and fired at will by the elected official.
Perkins said she’ll have plenty of time to campaign now for the Republican nomination for the position. She and Fields are running for the GOP nomination in the county. The vote will take place in August.
“She gave me the perfect opportunity to campaign for a little while and start looking for a job,” Perkins said. “I’ve been putting money away from my paychecks just in case I would file.”

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