Wednesday, April 21, 2010

San Mateo County grand jury: Consolidate controller, treasurer-tax collector

By Jessica Bernstein-Wax

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/20/2010 09:41:59 PM PDT
Updated: 04/21/2010 12:13:40 AM PDT

The San Mateo County civil grand jury on Tuesday released a report recommending that the county combine its controller and treasurer-tax collector jobs into a single chief financial officer position.

The report also recommends that the county manager appoint candidates to the new position with ratification by the board of supervisors. Voters currently elect a controller and treasurer-tax collector in San Mateo County, and four candidates will vie for outgoing Treasurer-Tax Collector Lee Buffington's job in June.

"These highly technical jobs do not lend themselves to oversight directly by the public/electorate," the report says. "Appointment of this highly technical and managerial position creates a mechanism to obtain the most qualified professionals through job specifications and professional standards, thus providing a wider avenue to attract candidates through broad searches."

Combining the two departments "would likely result in annual cost savings; however, further analysis is required," the report stated.

"Our sense is that there can be some significant savings for the county," grand jury foreman Bill Blodgett said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Blodgett added that it's difficult for voters to perform a job search for such complex, technical positions.

"This isn't like hiring a mayor, hiring a board of supervisors member," he said. "In those cases, you're really looking for people who can represent your positions, your philosophy, in forming public policy. That's not what we're talking about here."

Of California's 58 counties, 15 have reorganized their controller and treasurer-tax departments since 1982, the report said. Six — including Marin, Sacramento and Santa Clara counties — now have an appointed chief financial officer.

Assistant Controller Bob Adler said voters should decide the matter but added that he isn't convinced that combining the offices will save money.

"I'm not too sure about the economies of scale," Adler said. "That should be something that should be actually figured out as to whether it would save money."

Some counties have maintained controller and treasurer positions that report to the chief financial officer, which may be just as costly as keeping things the way they currently are in San Mateo County, he said.

In addition, separate offices provide "an internal control," Adler added.

"It's a check and balance so that the person who has control over the cash isn't responsible for reporting the cash," he said.

Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Charter Review Committee will hold its first meeting reviewing elected and appointed offices and consolidation this afternoon.

"We haven't really opened that discussion — I can't say what the committee is thinking," Chairman Sean Foote said. "I am really interested in looking into it."

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. today at the Menlo Park City Council Chambers, 701 Laurel St.

1 comment:

Warren Morrison said...

Consolidating the Treasurer-Tax Collector and the Controller would provide great savings for San Mateo County. Positions could be eliminated and staff cross trained.
At the very least, both treasurer and controller should be positions that are recruited and appointed. There is a candidate, Sandie Arnott, running for treasurer with only a highschool education and no investment or finance experience. What kind of risk does that create for the County of San Mateo if Sandie Arnott wins?