Wednesday, April 21, 2010

San Mateo Grand jury: Consolidate financial jobs

April 21, 2010, 02:37 AM Daily Journal Staff Report

The county should consolidate its elected controller and treasurer/tax collected into a single appointed chief financial officer to give residents the most effective and efficient option, according to the civil grand jury.

The jury’s report released Tuesday recommends the Board of Supervisors ask the Charter Review Committee to look at the idea and consider an amendment. The committee is currently meeting and expected to bring back any recommended changes in June.

As suggested by the grand jury, the county manager would appoint the chief financial officer who would report directly to him.

The Board of Supervisors has already tweaked the treasurer-tax collector position once at the prodding of the grand jury, adding in January new rules requiring office holders to meet certain education and experience qualifications. The change takes effect January 2011 and applies in January 2015, when the office comes up for re-election following this June’s race.

Consolidating the offices would create annual salary savings and money from eliminating the cost of elections, according to the jury report. The jury also held combining the offices simplifies the governmental organization structure, provides greater accountability and allows for greater professional expertise. On the flip side, it also noted elected positions offer greater accountability to voters, combined departments could create potential conflicts of interest and allows the elected official to challenge decisions by the Board of Supervisors.

The consolidation recommendation comes as longtime Treasurer Lee Buffington is set to retire. Four candidates are running for the office. Although the treasurer position often goes unnoticed, it received attention after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy leeched nearly $150 million from the San Mateo County investment fund and Buffington was called on to explain why the risks were not known.

The civil grand jury carries no legal weight but subjects of reports must reply in writing within 90 days.

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