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East County News Service

Update May 15, 2014:  by a 4 to 1 vote, with Mayor Art Madrid opposed, Council voted to move forward with this proposal, with voters having the ultimate decision on a future ballot measure to make the City Clerk an appointed position.

May 12, 2014 (La Mesa) -- On Thursday, May 13 the La Mesa City Council will discuss whether to place an item on the November election ballot to change the City Clerk position from one that is elected to a staff position that would be appointed.

Citing the increasing complexity of the position, Council Members Ernie Ewin and Ruth Sterling wrote, “City Clerk responsibilities require professional skills and expertise in areas such as election law, records management and conflict of interest regulations.”

Among other things, the Clerks Office must have a thorough knowledge of election procedures and the public notification requirements of the Brown Act.

The agenda attachment states that in California, approximately 28% are elected, while 72% are appointed, with La Mesa, Carlsbad, National City and Oceanside among those still electing them.

In researching arguments for and against, East County Magazine found the most common argument against concern maintaining the accountability to the public that an elected position ensures. The other commonly raised concern is that an elected official must live within a jurisdiction making them more responsive to community, while a staff person can live outside the community.

As currently structured, the position is divided in two parts: An elected position that functions as a ceremonial signatory, and a professionally trained staff of two which performs the actual day to day work of the Clerks office.

The Council discussion would include whether the two parts of the job (ceremonial and functional) should be combined into one all encompassing staff position, who would make the appointment (one possibility would be the City Manager), or what other form the proposal might take.

According to the City’s website, the City Clerk's Division is responsible to:

  • Administer all municipal elections
  • Administer oaths of office
  • Coordinate recruitments for board, commission and committee appointments
  • Issue resolutions and prepare ordinances for publication and codification
  • Maintain and protect all vital, permanent and historic records of the city
  • Prepare agendas and support material for the City Council, Redevelopment Agency, Parking Authority and Public Financing Authority meetings
  • Prepare, publish, post, and mail all public notices
  • Receive appeals and subpoenas
  • Serve as the filing officer for all campaign and conflict of interest disclosure statements as required by the Political Reform Act
  • Update and maintain the Municipal Code

Mary Kennedy, the current City Clerk, said she began working in the Clerks office in 1995, was then elected in 1998 and reelected since then, performing both parts of the job.

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