Council mulls treasurer, clerk changes

There could be a shake-up on an upcoming ballot as Glendale officials lean toward changing the elected office of city treasurer into an appointed position.

The proposal, which requires voter approval, isn’t new. But each time the electorate was asked in 1943, 1972 and 1979, they turned the measure down.

This week, the City Council discussed trying again, contending that the city treasurer position — occupied by Ron Borucki, who currently manages a city investment portfolio of about $400 million — is too important to leave to politics.

The proposal, put forth by Councilman Dave Weaver, gained traction among his colleagues.

“It should not be a popularity contest,” Councilman Ara Najarian said. “We should not have a popular individual in the community who knows nothing about investing or banking swept into office because he’s popular, for whatever reason.”

City treasurer wasn’t the only office to come up during the discussion, which also included potentially making the same switch for city clerk — a suggestion that failed to gain support.

Council members said they’d prefer to keep the clerk position it oversees counting close votes. An elected position has the appearance of greater independence, they said.

“This is about public trust,” said City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian. “This is about who you trust to ensure the fair tabulation of our votes.”

In the case of a close city clerk election, a previous clerk or contractor with election experience counts those ballots, he said.

Adding another twist to the political affair, some residents said they’d prefer to see the city attorney position go the opposite way — from appointed to elected. But several on the dais nixed that idea as well.

Due to the technical nature of the job, it’s best left to the most skilled job applicant, not the most skilled campaigner, said Najarian, an attorney.

However, Harry Zavos, a resident and former law professor, said giving residents power over the attorney post would make that position answerable to the electorate, not the council.

Zavos called attempts to convert elected positions into appointments a power play.

“It’s to simply focus more power in the council,” he said.

Of the 482 cities in the state, 173 elect their clerks and 143 elect their treasurers, said City Atty. Mike Garcia. Neighboring Burbank elects both positions.

To put the city treasurer proposal on the ballot for the next municipal general election in April 2013 would cost $26,000 to $47,000, Garcia said. To put it on the next state primary in June, or general election in November, could cost $155,000 to $165,000.

Mayor Laura Friedman said that while she was worried about having the item on the municipal general election ballot since a candidate could be running for a position that may not exist down the line, the cost of avoiding that was too high.

“My feeling is that spending six figures on this is out of the question,” she said.

The council is to review the matter again in the coming weeks.

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