Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Provenza opposes consolidating assessor’s office with clerk/recorder

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From page A1 | October 24, 2013 | 3 Comments

A plan to consolidate Yolo County’s assessor’s office with that of the clerk/recorder received preliminary approval from county supervisors this week. An ordinance combining the two elected offices will return to the board for a vote next month.

But the proposal — which would take effect at the end of 2014 when the current elected office-holders complete their terms — does not have the support of all board members.

Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis voted against the plan on Tuesday because of concerns that the elections office — currently part of the clerk/recorder’s office — would either get lost in the consolidation or end up losing its autonomy.

Provenza said combining the assessor and recorder offices makes sense because both deal primarily with real property.

Currently, the assessor sets property values while the recorder’s office files and maintains public documents associated with land transactions, including sales, liens, purchases and easements.

“They are a good fit to have in one department,” Provenza said.

But it’s the elections component of the clerk/recorder’s office that gives him pause.

In addition to a number of other duties, the clerk serves as registrar of voters, registering all voters in the county and maintaining the voter files. The clerk also verifies petitions, files campaign statements and conducts elections in the county.

Provenza said one of the busiest times for the clerk is during June elections, which also happens to be the busiest time for the county assessor, who is required to produce an annual assessment roll.

“I wouldn’t want elections to be a second fiddle,” Provenza said.

An alternative plan that was floated — and that is used in some other counties — would keep the registrar of voters separate, run by an appointed department head. But that has drawbacks as well, Provenza said.

“Having that person be independent is really important,” he said. “I think it’s important that there not be the perception that either the board or (county administrator’s office) have influence over the elections office.”

Currently, 26 counties in California have a combined assessor/recorder office and 16 of those counties have added the clerk duties as well. Eight have added the registrar of voters, according to county staff.

Counties that have consolidated report saving money and improving customer service.

Santa Barbara County, for example, initially saved $182,000 by eliminating management positions, offset by $28,000 in increased salaries and management restructuring. At the same time, the county reduced the lag time between property transfer and appraisal by two weeks, staff reported.

Yolo County’s savings would depend on how salaries are structured, staff said, but would save a portion of the current clerk/recorder salary of $116,066.

Supervisors are expected to vote on a Yolo County consolidation at their next board meeting on Nov. 5. As currently written, the ordinance would combine the assessor, recorder and clerk — including the registrar of voters — into one elected office.

Current office-holders Assessor Joel Butler and Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley will be up for re-election in June and their terms expire at the end of 2014.

Oakley said last month that she will seek re-election whether the offices are consolidated or not; Butler said he had not decided whether he would run again, and the consolidation proposal “could have an impact on that decision.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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Discussion | 3 comments

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  • Rich RifkinOctober 24, 2013 - 7:15 pm

    It would make far more sense to have the Board of Supervisors appoint all of the county's department heads, instead of having an uninformed and disinterested electorate vote for them. If that were done, then not only would these department heads have to answer to the Supervisors, but the Supes could consolidate the offices in a smarter manner. Mr. Provenzais right to express concern about the elections office getting lost in this mix. I am sure he and the other four Supes could make sure that did not happen if they actually were allowed to supervize those department heads. ........ Anyone who disagrees with me, and thinks it is best that the people elect all these county department heads, please answer this question: What percentage of voters can name the majority of our elected department heads (like Butler, Sylvia, Newens, Oakley, Reisig, Prieto, etc.)? And what percentage of YC voters has an informed opinion as to how well each does his job? (I certainly don't. Other than our supervisors and the county administrator, I don't know anyone who is well informed about the job performance of our elected department heads.)

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  • MyVoteMattersOctober 25, 2013 - 10:09 am

    The first commenter Mr. Rifkni does realize that the Board of Supervisors is elected by the same "uninformed and disinterested electorate" he claims should not vote for county department heads. The fact of the matter is that if the County produced an accurate organizational chart, the Voters of Yolo County would be at the top, with the Board below them. The Board of Supervisors serve at the will of the voters of Yolo County. The County Administrator on the other hand, serves at the will of the Board and not the electorate. It is a wrong assumption to think that the Board of Supervisors would be totally impartial and would not make department head appointments based on their own political alliances and goals. I for one would hope that more people would not want the power their electoral voice to be weakened by the elimination of another elected position here in Yolo County.

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  • Rich RifkinOctober 25, 2013 - 10:35 am

    "It is a wrong assumption to think that the Board of Supervisors would be totally impartial and would not make department head appointments based on their own political alliances and goals." ........ Who makes that assumption. I want the Supervisors to make "partial" choices which fit their goals. Your point that the voters are ill-informed about the Supervisors is likely true. But, if we just had one office to follow--our own Supe--that choice would be much more informed. It is the fact that we elect so many lesser offices that all the votes become dilluted and the ability to track the officeholders, short of a scandal, becomes impossible. Even worse, when there is a serious scandal (as is going on at present with Mr. Prieto's multiple lawsuits), it is effectively impossible to a department head until the next election. If each served at the pleasure of the Supervisors, and actually had supervision, the supes could investigate these claims and, if they did not like what they found, they could fire him. But as it stands, we will have the Prieto problem for many more years, because our Supervisors are not allowed to supervize.

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