Langley finance director rescinds resignation

One week after announcing her resignation to the mayor of Langley, a city department head decided not to quit after all.

Langley Finance Director Wanda Grone, former Island County treasurer, said Friday that the problems she saw with financial management have now been fixed with the adoption of an action plan and the posting of a new position.

On May 30, Grone informed Mayor Scott Chaplin of her intent to resign from the post, which she has held since January 2023. In her letter, she highlighted many problems she sees with the city’s administration that contributed to her decision, from outdated financial management software to a lack of separation of duties to frequent errors in billing. As a result, Grone wrote, she is so busy doing “base level bookkeeping tasks” that she cannot provide the reporting that is required of her position as finance director.

Grone went on to add that she was unable to do the work necessary to prepare and file the annual report required by the State Auditor’s Office, which had to be contracted out to a former city employee.

“You are obsessed with filling a city administrator position that is not going to resolve any of these problems, but the cost of which will instead expend the dollars that could be used to hire additional staff positions for the performing of basic administrative and accounting duties required for the organization to have up to date accounting information and the necessary separation of duties between individuals,” Grone wrote.

She added that she has given the mayor numerous memos outlining these issues. She pointed to her eight years of experience as Island County treasurer for enabling her to see what needs to be done to resolve the problems.

“My job at Langley is that of a bookkeeper or staff accountant, not a professional, and certainly not a CPA, and could be adequately filled by someone with much lesser skills and experience than mine,” she wrote, adding that she was tired of working 50-hour weeks.

In a second resignation letter dated June 1, Grone indicated her last day of work will be June 29. The letter alluded to a discussion Grone and Chaplin appeared to have had since the finance director’s first resignation letter; in her latest letter, Grone seemed to be recounting her responses to the mayor’s talking points from that discussion.

“I have provided you with now three different lists of problems and recommendations for structuring this office, but you apparently have other ideas for how the city should operate its Finance Department and accounting systems,” she wrote. “I will not be able to defend the current situation to the state Auditor when they are onsite later this year to do the biennial audit; I would only be able to relate my own recommendations and warnings, and that they were not adopted and heeded.”

Langley’s citizen-led Finance and Personnel Legislative Commission convened a special meeting on Tuesday, June 6 to discuss the status of the city’s finance department. Due to an oversight by the staff, the public meeting was not recorded; draft minutes of the meeting indicate that Grone, Chaplin and the commissioners were in agreement that an action plan was needed to keep track of tasks that needed to occur to address the issues. They worked on filling in the work plan and agreed to meet daily to identify any new issues. Grone announced that based on the development of the action plan, she wished to rescind her letter of resignation.

In an email to The Record, Chaplin said he neither accepted Grone’s resignation formally, nor her decision to rescind.

“I saw the episode more as a conversation starter,” he said.

When asked about how to legally handle Grone’s resignation and subsequent rescinding of that action, Chaplin said he spoke with the city attorney and felt comfortable having Grone stay on with the city and that “this is allowed to happen in the manner we have been proceeding with under state law.”

Grone said she’s been given authority to hire an accounting clerk to handle a variety of regular and recurring accounting procedures. The salary range is $59,236-$66,878 annually, according to the job posting. Grone earns $97,000 a year.