San Jose’s City Clerk Toni Taber nearly lost her job last year after dispensing misinformation about local election laws. But the City Council gave her a second chance, stripped her of some duties and ordered an audit to clean up the embattled office.
On Tuesday, the council will discuss the results of that audit, which pointed to lapses in the department’s statutory obligations. Many of the clerk’s responsibilities revolve around ensuring compliance with state open meeting, public records, political reform and election laws.
Problems arose last year when council candidates realized that Taber failed to inform them of a local rule for reporting campaign contributions that went above and beyond state law. Bad advice exposed candidates to potential fines for hundreds of violations.
City Auditor Sharon Erickson directed Taber to clarify roles and responsibilities of her office to avoid confusion and get work done more accurately and efficiently.
The clerk’s office should also improve customer service for the mayoral and council offices, the audit found. Last fall, Mayor Sam Liccardo said he has found repeated mistakes on budget projections supplied by the clerk to his and other council offices. Erickson confirmed several of those errors.
“The clerk’s office does not have standard procedures for most of the support services it provides to mayor and council offices,” Erickson wrote. “This has resulted in avoidable errors such as providing budget projection based on incorrect pay rates for mayor and council staff.”
To avoid mistakes, the auditor said the clerk’s office should drum up a procedure for creating budget documents, among other things, and delivering them in a timely manner.
The clerk’s office also needs to get its lobbyist accounts in order, according to the audit. In fall of 2015, Taber’s office began collecting some $60,000 in outstanding fines and fees owed by lobbyists. Apparently, as the department dealt with reductions from 18 staffers in 2011 to the 11 people working there today, tracking lobbyists became a lower priority.
Over the years, lobbyists weren’t always notified about registration fees and fines. Erickson suggested creating a policy to collect on that debt and ensure that lobbyists are notified in a timely way moving forward. The City Clerk will also study the feasibility of creating an electronic filing system for lobbyist tracking and reporting.
In all, Erickson issued 20 recommendations. To read the entire report, click here.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for August 9, 2016:
- The council will vote on placing a tax measure raising business-licensing fees on the Nov. 8 ballot. Revised language, based on feedback from the initiative’s author, will ease the burden on rental properties.
- Another ballot measure up for review is one that would replace San Jose’s controversial Measure B pension reforms passed by voters in 2012.
- Mayor Liccardo will budget $85,000 from his office for an “End of Watch” monument to honor the lives of police officers killed in the line of duty. Fundraising will be needed to raise enough to build the memorial, which is slated to go outside of the San Jose Police Department headquarters.
- San Jose’s animal control responded to 21,000 calls for service in 2014 and 2015, according to a new audit. About 330 of those required help from SJPD. Remarkably, the report included no recommendations. “We found that Animal Care and Services and the Police Department were adequately prioritizing emergency animal related calls to ensure that the public and animals in San Jose are well protected,” the report concluded.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260