Should voters pick their city clerk and city treasurer? Question faces Belmont

Daily Post Staff Writer

In this election, Belmont residents are being asked if they want to continue electing the city clerk and city treasurer, or should the positions be appointed by the City Council.

Since the city was incorporated in 1926, both positions, along with the City Council, have been elected.

Terri Cook has been the city’s clerk since 2002, and John Violet has been the city treasurer since 2003.

Cook did not wish to comment publicly on the measure, while Violet said he wants to let voters decide if they want the treasurer to remain elected.

However, Violet pointed out that having an elected treasurer can provide oversight of public funds, to ensure they are not being used improperly.

A question of skills

Mayor Doug Kim said that if Measures CC and WW pass, the city could appoint people to these posts that have the professional skills and background necessary for the jobs.

“I don’t think the city’s finances should be managed by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. And today, city clerks have sophisticated responsibilities,” Kim said.

Kim said the council didn’t have any issues with Cook or Violet’s job performance. But he said the “reality is that they can’t do this forever. I want to make sure that we don’t get as a replacement, an 18-year-old kid who has no clue how to do things.”

Currently, the only requirements to run for either treasurer or clerk is that the candidate has to be at least 18 years old and a resident of Belmont.

More power for the city manager

Kim said he and the rest of council voted to put this issue on the ballot to try to fix the issue of a lack of job requirements for these two important positions before an issue does arise.

Resident Tim Strinden said he’s against the measures because, in his view, the benefits of having an elected clerk and treasurer outweigh “any possible increase in competence that appointments might provide.”

“While the appointees may be more qualified than elected officials, their primary loyalty is to their boss. This means they would be less likely to report or pursue information critical of city operations than independent, elected officials,” Strinden said.

Strinden also believes that taking away the two positions would only give City Manager Greg Scoles more power, especially since the council does not “question him on key issues.”

“While Belmont’s current city clerk and treasurer don’t act independently, their elected replacements in 2020 could exercise their independence to bring about much greater transparency in city operations for the benefit of residents,” Strinden said in an email to the Post.

Other cities

The ballot argument in favor of the measures says that if passed, the city will “join the vast majority of California cities that all recognize the need for experienced professionals who are hired based on experience and qualifi-cations necessary for the job.”

Daly City and South San Francisco are the two other cities in San Mateo County that elect their city clerk.

City treasurers are charged with investing and managing city funds and creating reports for the council. San Carlos, along with South San Francisco and Daly City, are the other cities in the county with elected city treasurers.

1 Comment

  1. Mayor Doug Kim seems to think that Belmont voters are smart enough to vote for City Council members, and yet not smart enough to vote for City Clerk and City Treasurer? This is a blatent attempt by City Council to grab more power for themselves and take away the rights of the citizens to make their own decisions.
    City Clerk and City Treasurer, being elected positions, provide the checks and balances needed to make sure that the City Council doesn’t attempt to do a power grab by appointing their cronies to these very important positions.
    It is vital to have an independent City Clerk to keep our election process free and fair, and to record city council decisions, and to preserve and protect our city records making them accessible to the public. It is just as vital to have an independent city treasurer. John Violet, our current City Treasurer stated that “having an elected treasurer can provide oversight of public funds, to insure they are not being used improperly.”
    An elected City Clerk and elected City Treasurer are the eyes and ears of the residents, and they help the residents keep the City Council honest.
    Don’t take away our right to vote. Vote No on Measure CC and Measure WW.

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