Saturday, June 7, 2014
(Solano County) Editorial: Registrar deserves praise Tuesday, but grand jury findings are concerning
June 5, 2014
The Vacaville Reporter
If Tuesday's primary showed anything, it was that the Solano County Registrar of Voters Office has made great strides in improving its operations.
Granted, the dismal turnout by voters for the primary — barely more than 21 percent in Solano County — was hardly the kind of thing that should have taxed a registrar's staff. Still, unlike past elections, the Solano office kept number counts coming out on a regular basis and there were no reports of major problems. Final unofficial tallies were online before midnight.
The stellar performance made it all the more ironic that the Solano County grand jury would take the office to task.
Due to a citizen concern, a 2011-12 grand jury report was revisited by the current grand jury and officials found enough issues on employment and finances to make some findings and recommendations that, indeed, have some merit.
The jury found that not all employees were cross-trained as had been recommended by the previous reviewers. New suggestions for managers include providing more avenues for training and improvement, encouraging employees to cross-train and considering incentives as motivation.
Incentives seem unnecessary. Cross training should be an automatic requirement of employment. One example pointed out in the grand jury report was cross training of Election Coordinators and Election Technicians. Coordinators plan, organize and supervise election programs. Technicians do the support work, data entry on registration records, compline candidate and voting information, assist with tabulations etc. The two have different task but work closely and cross training would certainly help with efficiency in the department.
Grand jurors also found that the position of Deputy Registrar of Voters, vacant for three years. There is currently a registrar and an assistant registrar, and it was more than enough to handle Tuesday's primary but November will be a general election with a plethora of state, local and federal races and propositions. The grand jury recommends the deputy position be filled as soon as possible and we agree.
Cost effectiveness was also a focus of the report, and in particular troubling collection efforts — or more specifically, lack of collection.
According to the report, the city of Rio Vista, Benicia City Library and Dixon Public Library all owe the county money in connection with past elections.
In June 2010, the Registrar of Voters reviewed petitions for Rio Vista officials. The cost of the work totaled $3,245.
"As of March 19, 2014, this amount has not been collected from the city of Rio Vista. ROV (Registrar of Voters) is currently working with their internal accounting staff to create an expected revenue tracking sheet for monies owed to Solano County," grand jurors noted in their report.
Rio Vista may be struggling financially but that is no reason to receive county services for free, or on the backs of taxpayers from elsewhere in the county. The Registrar of Voters is responsible for collecting the fees for its services and should move to do so immediately, even if it means working out a payment plan.
The Rio Vista situation isn't the only case in which funds are still unpaid. In June 2012, the Board of Supervisors set the maximum amount for Solano County Library Measure "L" election costs at $100,000. But as of March, only $86,828 had been received.
"Outstanding amounts of $8,839 is due from Benicia City Library and $4,332 is due from Dixon Public Library," the report states.
Grand jurors recommend that voter officials make it a priority to collect money owed their office.