Proposal to eliminate elected department heads off table in El Dorado County
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors decided earlier this month not to pursue ballot measures that would have asked voters to modify four county department head positions, turning the now elected jobs into appointed.
El Dorado County Charter Section 402 lists elected department heads as: assessor, auditor-controller, district attorney, recorder-clerk, sheriff-coroner-public administrator, surveyor and treasurer-tax collector.
Only the DA, sheriff and assessor are constitutionally required to be elected. Last year, with prompting from the 2017-18 Charter Review Committee, the board discussed the possibility of placing a charter change on the ballot to reclassify the other four positions, giving the board and county chief administrative officer hiring and firing authority over those department heads.
CAO Don Ashton brought back the issue on July 16 as now is the time to start preparing ballot measures for the 2020 elections. He noted that most of California’s 58 counties have elected auditors and treasurer-tax collectors and more than half have elected recorders. El Dorado County is the only county in the state with an elected surveyor.
It was recommended that if the board sought to change the charter, four separate ballot measures be written — one for each position. Ashton noted that other proposed charter changes have performed badly on recent ballots and suggested, if the board so desired, they “test the waters” with one position, perhaps the surveyor as El Dorado County is unique in having that official elected.
But the supervisors and speakers didn’t exhibit any enthusiasm about the idea.
“Elected positions, as least for these positions, are better than appointed,” said District 2 Supervisor Shiva Frentzen.
“I am not in favor of putting a single position on the ballot,” followed District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl.
El Dorado County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn was the first to speak when board Chair Sue Novasel invited the public to comment, telling supervisors and audience members this proposed charter change, which has been a topic of conversation among county grand juries and charter committees for several years, is politically motivated.
“I’m who they’re after,” Harn said.
He asked that if the board chooses to single out an elected position, they put his job on the ballot, not the surveyor’s.
Most speakers opposed the idea of taking charter changes to the voters and after more discussion the board unanimously voted not to pursue any ballot measures regarding elected department heads at this time.
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