Former city clerk reflects on tenure

Former Costa Mesa City Clerk Julie Folcik said her decision to resign from the city was difficult but voluntary.

"It was hard to get to this point," said Folcik, seated on the porch of her craftsman home in Long Beach. "It was just a really hard decision to come to on my own."

Folcik, 48, spent almost a decade managing city documents and preparing City Council agendas, but her career was put on hold in March when the city investigated why she accidentally missed a deadline to get the city's proposed charter initiative on the June ballot.

Although some suggested Folcik may have intentionally missed the March deadline because many city employees oppose the charter initiative, she said it was an accident.

"It's exactly what it was: It was a clerical error on my part," she said. "I thought I could turn in the packet on Monday."

The packet was actually due the Friday before.

Although she said she's hopeful for what comes next, she doesn't want to minimize what happened with the proposed charter initiative.

"I'm not trying to downplay the mistake," she said.

Emails from Orange County Registrar of Voters officials show that she was reminded of the deadline as late as one day before the paperwork was due.

Her leave time was paid. Folcik received about $33,000 during her time off, according to estimates based on her hourly rate.

In the days after the error, city CEO Tom Hatch called it a "significant professional failure."

The city spent $50,021 through March fighting the registrar in court for not placing the charter on the June ballot. In March, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled against the city's bid to get the charter on the ballot.

Folcik and other city employees were interviewed after Hatch called for an investigation, although Folcik declined to provide the Daily Pilot with details of what was said during that investigation or the terms of her departure.

In discussing her resignation, Folcik spoke slowly and appeared saddened. Of all the things she is going to miss, the residents top the list.

"I've had some wonderful years in Costa Mesa," she said. "It has a huge place in my heart. I love the community."

There are others who will miss her presence at City Hall.

City Councilwoman Wendy Leece spoke fondly of Folcik, saying she was a gracious and friendly person acting as the first point of contact for those visiting Costa Mesa.

"I always found that she was a great ambassador for the city of Costa Mesa," Leece said. "Always professional and always very friendly."

Leece said she is pleased that Folcik came to terms with her decision.

"I'm happy that she found the peace to move on and begin a new chapter in her life," she said.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee Katrina Foley said she was surprised when the charter didn't make it onto the ballot because of Folcik's focused work ethic.

"Julie was excellent to work with," said Foley, a former councilwoman. "She was always extremely professional, detail-oriented and extremely careful about her work. This entire situation is not in character with her performance, which led me to believe that there was more to the story than her just making a mistake."

She later added that Folcik may have received mixed messages from others.

"It seems to me there was a lot of miscommunication coming from lawyers, council members and possibly others," Foley said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said up until the mistake with the charter she had been a good to work with.

"She's always been very pleasant to work with, and I can only say I think it was a bit of a surprise when we found out the charter hadn't been emailed to the Registrar of Voters," he said. "But other than that she was very nice."

Folcik said her next career move remains unclear.

"Where do I go from here? I'm not sure yet."

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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