Supes ask voters to weigh in on director of finance position, but retain final decision

Sometimes the law has some pretty darn curious quirks and kinks.

Case in point — the proposed consolidation of the county treasurer/tax collector position with the county auditor position and creating a new Office of Finance director position.

In April, the board discussed the possibility of consolidating the two positions because the county auditor position was vacant. They appointed Treasure/Tax Collector Nancy Cardenas to assume to Auditor’s role since the position was vacant.

Here are the two questions that will appear on the ballot.

Now the supervisors are asking the voters what they think about the consolidation, and they’re going to put two questions on the ballot for the voters next March, but the vote will be an advisory vote only, and the ultimate decision remains with the board of supervisors.

According to California Government Code Section 26980(a), the board of supervisors “may establish an appointed Office of Director of Finance if a majority vote of the voters favor establishment of such office.”

According to the staff report, “It is recommended that the Office of Director of Finance be an appointed office by the Board of Supervisors to be consistent with the opinion of the California Attorney General Opinion (55. Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 346) that no statute provides for an elective position.”

“Additionally, it is recommended that the Board of Supervisors ask a second advisory question to receive voter opinion of having the position serve a four-year term. Most elective local offices (e.g. Sheriff, District Attorney, Treasurer/Tax Collector/Auditor, County Clerk, Assessor) and some appointed offices (e.g. County Counsel, Agricultural Commissioner), as provided by statute, serve a four-year term.”

Lassen County Administrative Officer Richard Egan explains the process involved in creating a director of finance position. Photos by Sam Williams

County Administrative Officer Richard Egan reminded the board several times during the discussion that the power to make this decision untimely rests with them regardless of the opinion of the voters because the authority to consolidate the offices rests with the board, not the voters. The supervisors do not have to follow the voters’ advice, and if they do nothing everything remains as it is right now.

He said the position was vacant until the board appointed Treasurer/Tax Collector/Auditor Nancy Cardenas to the consolidated position earlier this year — the responsibilities envisioned by the new Director of Finance position — because “nobody ran, nobody applied.”

According to county counsel, the creation of a Director of Finance is an approach taken by other counties in California.

Nancy Cardenas listens as the supervisors debate the director of finance position question for nearly 40 minutes. The supervisors appointed Cardenas to add the auditor’s role to her elected treasurer/tax collector responsibilities. Cardenas said she plans to retire at the end of her elected term.

Several supervisors strongly balked at the idea of taking elected positions away from the voters, but Egan again explained the vote was advisory only and the final decision rested with the board, regardless of the advisory vote.

The board voted 4-1 to put the questions on the ballot — with District 3 Supervisor Tom Neely voting no.