Controversy surrounds Canton town clerk successor

WWNY Controversy surrounds Canton town clerk successor

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Canton’s deputy clerk is being passed over for the top job. Instead, a woman who just resigned her town board post is set to become town clerk - and that has become an issue in Canton.

It was a flower-strewn goodbye Wednesday as Canton’s town clerk, Lisa Hammond, headed into retirement. But earlier in the day, she expressed big concerns about how her successor is being chosen.

“I’m receiving a lot of complaints about it, that they’re not being transparent about it,” she said.

Hammond wants her deputy, Heidi Smith, to get the job. But town supervisor Mary Ann Ashley says the board is set to pick former town board member Karin Blackburn.

“My perspective is we followed the law. We clearly followed the law and what we could and couldn’t do,” said Ashley.

Blackburn resigned her council seat just a week-and-a-half ago. Hammond and others say it looks like the fix was in.

“I’m hoping tomorrow that they say why they are choosing a council person over a trained deputy,” said Hammond.

The job was never publicly advertised. Only Blackburn and Smith were interviewed. Ashley says because of confidentiality she can’t say why one was picked over the other.

“The problem is the turn-around time. We only had a short time. We interviewed two candidates. It was a full board interview process,” said Ashley.

The town board will vote on hiring a town clerk Thursday during a 10 a.m. virtual meeting.

Right now it’s the town council that gets to choose the new town clerk. But next year, voters will get to decide when they go to the polls in town elections.

If chosen Thursday, Blackburn will be serving out only the last year of Hammond’s term. In all, five town offices are up for election in 2021.

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