Sunday, April 26, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Measure H would replace elected county auditor with an appointed official

By
From page A1 | October 12, 2012 |

Yolo County voters will decide next month whether the elected office of auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector should be eliminated and replaced instead with that of a finance director appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Measure H marks the third time in the past 26 years that voters have faced the issue on the ballot. Similar measures were defeated in 1986 and 1998.

If passed, current Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Howard Newens — who has held the office since 2002 and favors the change — would serve out the remainder of his term until December 2014. At that point, a director of finance would be appointed by supervisors.

The move essentially would combine the fiscal functions currently performed by the county administrator’s office — budget issues and financial planning — with those of Newens’ office, which includes most countywide accounting, auditing, collections, cash management and investment activity.

And while supporters argue that the move would increase county efficiency and save money, opponents say eliminating the elected office also would eliminate independent oversight.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this summer to place the measure on the ballot.

At the time, they pointed to a successful pilot project over the past year in which Newens and County Administrator Patrick Blacklock collaborated on the county budget in a way that allowed Blacklock to keep vacant two positions — a chief budget analyst and a principal management analyst. Continuing to consolidate budgeting within a department of finance would allow those positions to remain vacant, savings hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, Blacklock has said.

That collaboration only happened because Newens was willing to participate, something that might not necessarily happen with his successors, noted Supervisor Matt Rexroad of Woodland.

“People take this for granted,” Rexroad said. “We have a very good team right now and I credit (Blacklock and others). It’s a good team working to produce a good budget and that hasn’t always been the case. Independent elected officials can go their own way if they want to.”

Another motivating factor for supervisors is the technical nature of the job itself, and the expertise and knowledge of both county operations and financial matters that might not necessarily exist in future candidates for the office.

“Matt Rexroad could be elected to that office … and that wouldn’t go well for anyone,” Rexroad said. “Few people can do that job well.”

In fact, Newens has said, “anyone in town who is a CPA could decide to run for the office, but it’s not like running a business. It’s a very different animal.”

With an appointed position, he said, “we can stipulate that you have to have experience in county government.”

Supervisors also would be able to recruit candidates from outside the county if needed and implement performance evaluations, Newens said.

But opponent Kumar Sah, a Yolo County resident and CPA who works for the state controller’s office, says an appointed finance director would be beholden to supervisors, rather than to voters.

“To be appointed by the very people they are supposed to keep an eye on makes for a lack of check and balance,” Sah said. “With most appointed positions, their allegiance tends to always be with the people who appoint them.

“We want an objective person in office,” he added. “(We want) somebody who would be able to stand up to the supervisors when they need to, as an impartial and objective individual looking out for the citizens’ best interest.”

Should Measure H pass, independent oversight would come in the form of a finance oversight committee composed of representatives of Yolo County cities, school districts and special districts, as well as the public at large, and the measure also would require independent audits of the finance department.

Supporters have noted that not only have many counties in California switched from elected to appointed offices, but most cities within Yolo County use appointed finance directors as well.

Sah is concerned, though, that the move creates a dangerous precedent.

“What’s next?” he asked. “Do we get the county clerk’s office appointed? What about the public guardian, a very crucial function? Will they want to put one of their own cronies in there?”

That’s an entirely different debate, Rexroad said.

“This is about our financial house. We’re looking to take advantage of efficiencies here,” he said, adding, “to what end would the opponents suggest we go? Do we elect our mental health director?”

Joining Sah in opposition to Measure H is Thomas Randall, who has led the fight against recent school parcel taxes in Davis, including Measure E, which will be on the November ballot alongside Measure H.

Randall opposes the move from elected office to appointed position because, he said, “during these difficult economic times, public involvement in the selection of the auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector is crucial, especially due to the many special tax and bond ballot measures that have been passed in various electoral districts in Yolo County in recent years, which relate to the need for this office to remain as an elective one to maintain public accountability.”

Randall added that, “some of the proponents of Measure E … are supporters of Measure H as well.”

With just weeks to go before the November election, Sah is hoping to ramp up the No on Measure H campaign by “educating voters.”

“That’s all I want to do. If they research it and go along with the supervisors, I’m OK with that,” he said. “I just want them to be educated.”

But Sah also said the fact that supervisors have put the plan back on the ballot despite voters having turned it down twice already “is almost an insult.”

“We have sent a very loud and clear message … telling them, ‘Stop. We don’t want to hand our power over to you,’ ” Sah said.

“When I see this back on the ballot again, it doesn’t make me happy.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Comments

comments

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
     
    Davis team wins world robotics championship

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Nepal quake death toll exceeds 1,800

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Spring storm delivers late rain, snow to Northern California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    At the Pond: Plenty of pleasures in our bioregion

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Free Family Bike Clinic set Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Pioneering organic chef presents her memoir Monday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Suspect in UCD assault arrested

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4

     
    Dog park marks anniversary with cleanup

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Rail-safety bill passes Senate committee

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Watch them in action

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5

    Stocks rise on tech earnings; Nasdaq adds to record

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

     
    Dodd speaks as part of public policy series

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    We did it (together)!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

     
    $2.72 million judgment ordered against Dollar Tree Stores

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    UCD hosts bike auction Saturday, May 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    Fly Fishers to hear about advanced streamer tactics on Tuesday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Bicycle activist will speak Monday at Hall of Fame

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Those texts still linger

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

     
    New ways of giving locally and beyond

    By Marion Franck | From Page: B6

     
    Study questions accuracy of tumor gene mapping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

     
    Poker proceeds help youths

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

    Invest in water of the future

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

     
    Water, water everywhere?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12

    Mayor’s Corner: A spirit of renewal permeates Davis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

     
    More work to do for a safe Picnic Day

    By Our View | From Page: A12

     
    Anaheim, where The Force is with you

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A13 | Gallery

    .

    Sports

    Davis gets two baseball wins in two days

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

     
    Grizzlies dominate young Blue Devils on Senior Night

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Energy, fan-friendly happenings highlight UCD spring football game

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Blue Devil golfers capture CAL Invitational title

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Blue Devil swimmers are up to the challenge

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies reach water polo semifinals

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    Babich brings the heat as DHS girls stick it to Oak Ridge

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

     
    DHS softball struggles continue against Sheldon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    History comes alive in ‘The Sacramento Picture’

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A7

     
    Big Italian food, sports bar to fill Little Prague

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    Comcast announces speed upgrade

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Roots hires new general manager

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Obituaries

     
    Whitney Joy Engler

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Valente Forrest Dolcini

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, April 26, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8