San Clemente voters will decide if their City Clerk and Treasurer should change from elected to council-appointed positions after the city council voted June 7 to put the issue on the November ballot.
The council voted 3 to 1, with councilwoman Laura Ferguson absent.
Councilman Steve Knoblock cast the dissenting vote, saying elected officials should not work under the city manager—a position appointed by the city council.
“I asked that we agenize [this] to avoid a potential conflict that exists where an elected official is employed by the city manager and [at] a substantial income,” Knoblock said during the June 7 meeting.
San Clemente's city manager supervises the administration, including the city clerk and treasurer.
“That is an inherent conflict because the loyalty [of elected officials] is to the citizens of San Clemente,” he said.
Knoblock said the city manager should not oversee any official including a clerk, treasurer, or councilor.
Mayor Gene James, although voting for the ballot measures, backed the councilman’s argument, saying it would be awkward having an elected official reporting to the city manager.
“In my view, it’s not a problem in reality, but it’s a problem of perception,” James said.
However, Councilwoman Kathy Ward said the optics of questioning and potentially changing how the positions are staffed would draw concerns from the city council, staff, and public.
“There are also dangers in when you talk about removing [responsibilities] from the city manager ... it’s like a cancer that grows,” she said.
Ward said if the council separated the administrative positions from the city, those employees would receive lower salaries, and it would deter qualified candidates from applying for those positions.