Opinion

Women’s role suffers in merging local treasurer, controller offices

The California state Capitol in Sacramento. (Photo: Adonis Villanueva, via Shutterstock)

The treasurer-tax collector is the only elected office held by more women than men at the local, state and national level.

In fact, the leadership of the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors (CACTTC) is comprised of five elected women and two men, thus reflecting the success of women in elected office.

Representing the concerns of CACTTC, we find it ironic that at a time when gender balance in politics is front-and-center, the office to which historically more women than men are elected is being eroded through consolidation of treasurer-tax collector with auditor-controller without voter approval.

In addition, the positions are changed from elected to appointed, eroding the independence of the offices as intended by law. When the position is appointed rather than elected, men comprise the majority of those holding the position, ignoring the will of the voters.

Why is this important?

Already, seven counties have combined the duties of treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller claiming they are motivated by cost savings and greater efficiency, neither of which is historically valid.

It’s not just about gender balance, it’s about voters getting to choose who represents them to ensure the fiscal responsibility and transparency of counties.

That responsibility and transparency is threatened when counties propose changing elected offices accountable to the taxpayers to appointed or consolidated positions without voter approval.  Such a process opens the door to placing the proverbial fox in the hen house by shifting accountability away from the taxpayers to the hiring party for ensured job security.

County residents and voters deserve better. AB 2558 by Assemblymember William Brough, R-Dana Point, helps to ensure that the money taxpayers put in the hands of local government is managed to the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and impartiality by protecting the independence of treasurer-tax collectors and auditor-controllers.

Already, seven counties have combined the duties of treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller claiming they are motivated by cost savings and greater efficiency, neither of which is historically valid.

With recent and persistent actions that threaten to erode the will of voters, we want to bring light to an important measure that would protect the rights of voters by ensuring that any proposed consolidation of the elected treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller  be approved by the voters. Brough’s bill ensures that voters are given the opportunity to vote on any consolidation of treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller. And it protects the voters authority to decide through the voting process if the consolidated office is to be elected or appointed.

As county treasurer-tax collectors, we receive, deposit, and manage investments and are the principals in the issuance of county debt obligations which support construction projects and other county financing needs. We are responsible for banking and financial relationships and entrusted to administer the county’s budget. The auditor-controller is the only agency in most counties that serves as an active independent watchdog of inaccurate financial reporting and misappropriation of funds. By working independently, but in collaboration, the treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller ensure a checks and balances process providing oversight protecting county assets.

Policy that allows for combining the County watchdog and financial management functions into a single agency acting without direct accountability to the voters promotes a dangerous conflict of interest. It also erodes the will of county voters to choose who represents them, and in this case, they have overwhelmingly chosen women. We believe in order to uphold good governance and maintain transparency; voters should have the right to decide whether or not consolidation of these key offices best serves their local jurisdictions.

We, along with our fellow treasurer-tax collectors, support AB2558 to preserve and protect voters’ rights.

Ed’s Note: Sandie Arnott, the immediate past president of the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors, is the San Mateo County treasurer-tax collector; Karen Adams is the Merced County treasurer-tax collector; Tracy Kennedy is the Madera County treasurer-tax collector.

 


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