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|San Mateo County, CA||November 8, 2011 Election|
Elected vs. Appointed
By Terri CookCandidate for City Clerk; City of Belmont
This information is provided by the candidate
Why is the City Clerk elected in Belmont?In California, about 25% of cities have elected city clerks. Some are full-time and some part-time. In the past, almost all city clerks were elected. But over the years, because of the position and duties of city clerk has evolved to be more complex and technical in nature, many cities have moved their clerks from elected to appointed positions. Those cities had concerns that because the only qualification to be elected to city clerk is to be a registered voter and 18 years of age, they might end up with an unqualified person being elected to an important management position.
The biggest philosophical difference between an elected clerk and an appointed clerk is that an elected clerk is answerable only to the public. He/she is not managed by anyone at city hall.
In Belmont we have been very fortunate that the smart and savvy voters have always elected qualified clerks. They've always had a great pool of qualified candidates from which to choose.
The decision to move from elected to appointed needs to be made by the voters. Reducing the full-time elected position to a part-time position circumvents the will of the voters. When San Carlos tried to do this a few years ago, the Grand Jury intervened.
The question of what an elected clerk does versus an appointed clerk is one of structure. There are a few statutory duties that need to be assigned to an elected clerk, if a city has an elected clerk. Some cities have a part-time figurehead city clerk who oversees minimal statutory tasks such as signing of resolutions and ordinances, executing contracts, and overseeing elections. In those cases, the administrative duties are accomplished by appointed staff. It's not uncommon for a city the size of Belmont to have a figurehead city clerk with two full-time administrative staff who manages the day-to-day operations.
In Belmont + as in other cities that have a full-time elected city clerk + the statutory duties are combined with the administrative duties. This is a very common structure for cities with full-time elected clerks who usually has some additional support staff. In some cities, the city clerk's department is responsible for other duties beyond those primarily managed by the city clerk's office. For example, sometimes the clerk's office may be responsible for managing the city's commissions. Sometimes the clerk's office is the official public information officer for the city. In other cities, all city records are overseen by the city clerk's office. You will often see the title "city clerk/records manager". In Belmont, records are decentralized, which means that each department manages its own records, although approval for destruction of records is handled through the city clerk's office.
This is why it's difficult to compare city clerk staff sizes throughout the various cities, because it depends on what duties are assigned to the city clerk's office.
I have publicly stated that having a full-time elected City Clerk has served Belmont well. That's because I am aware of instances over the years where poor managers + and some unscrupulous councilmembers -- have tried to get the city clerk to do something unethical, potentially illegal, or which circumvented proper procedure. Because the clerk was elected, he/she was able to say no without fear of being fired or reprimanded. Other city clerks around the State have shared with me some examples of when they were put in compromising positions because they were directed to do something that they knew was inappropriate. They felt conflicted because their job was on the line.
If there is a desire to move from elected to appointed, I support asking the voters, since ultimately the decision c
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