County to research Director of Finance position
By Paul Myers
visalia – Rita Woodard could stand to lose another one of her jobs soon, and along with it the voice of the public. Two weeks ago her registrar of voters post was handed to appointee Michelle Baldwin. Just a week later the Board of Supervisors and the County Administrative Office (CAO) discussed whether or not to establish the Office of Director of Finance, taking over part of the auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector position or all of it.
As a result, the Board voted to investigate how they can convert the County’s auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector from an elected position to an appointed position.
“What we are doing is beginning our due diligence to look into what the law requirements that must be met and what we want to do,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Pete Vander Poel said.
Woodard noted that she was left out of the loop and did not know that her position was under consideration until the Thursday before the April 4 board meeting when she received the Board agenda. Her first comments on the matter were in an address to the Board, also on April 4. Woodard noted that voters and other entities could wind up lose their influence in the County government if her position went from elected to appointed.
“I think the people are going to lose their voice and it is a big voice…it’s a lot of money coming through the County…We collect from the cities and schools. It’s not just the County’s money. It’s everybody’s,” Woodard said to the Board. Later on, during an interview, Woodard indicated that her relationship with the Board and administration has become contentious.
“I’m their watchdog and I don’t think they necessarily like it.”
Vander Poel says that in terms of providing a voice to the public, he is unsure how much the public is actually losing.
“How many open or public meetings does that department have? That answer is simple, zero,” Vander Poel said. “And if you do have issues with that department they are usually voiced at the Board of Supervisors meeting anyway… if anything this is enhancing public access.”
Woodard, who plans to retire as the auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector position once her term is over, claims that the County is attempting to do this quickly and without much resistance. And the timeline corroborates Woodard’s claim.
The County is required to put the measure of creating the Director of Finance on the Nov. 7, 2017 ballot, and it is too late to put it on the June 6, 2017 ballot. The County has two opportunities to file election paperwork this summer. They can either file it on July 10 or Aug. 11. During the director of finance discussion at last week’s meeting deputy county administrative officer Sophia Manza expressed that County staff is pushing for a more aggressive timeline. The Board voted unanimously to allow for the analysis and shoot for the July 10 filing date.
Vander Poel said that despite the more aggressive schedule, the Board or the administration is not trying to force her out.
“This is not a quest against anyone or an axe to grind or anything like that. This is just having the best possible structure and management for the public’s money,” Vander Poel said.