Committee Recommendation

Report of the ad hoc Committee on the City Recorder Position
Recommendations to the City Council
January 7, 2016
Following a January, 2015, discussion of department head compensation, the Council requested a study session discussion of City Recorder compensation.  This was subsequently conjoined with a request from multiple councilors for a discussion of referring to the voters a charter amendment to make the City Recorder an appointed position.
Following the August 31 study session, the Council requested that the mayor appoint an ad hoc committee to study the matter and make a recommendation to the  Council. This committee was appointed at the September 15, 2015 business meeting, with the following members:
  • Councilor Stefani Seffinger (chair)
  • Barbara Christensen, city recorder
  • Dave Kanner, city administrator
  • Pam Lucas, Budget Committee member
  • Brian Almquist, former city administrator
The committee met three times in October, November and December, 2015. Though she provided extremely valuable input at the first meeting, Ms. Christensen excused herself from the second meeting and preferred the role of liaison to the ad hoc Committee.
Please note that the ad hoc committee recommends that its proposed changes to the city recorder position not take effect until the current city recorderís term expires. The ad hoc committee also wishes to acknowledge the excellent work the current city recorder has provided to the citizens of Ashland.
The ad hoc committee recommends to the Council that the City would be best served if this position became an appointed position for the following reasons:
1.   The city has been fortunate in having qualified candidates elected to this position in the past. There is no guarantee that this will be the case in the future, particularly in light of the pay and benefits and the fact that there are no minimum qualifications for the position. If this position is appointed, qualifications for the position and a selection process can be established to ensure having the best qualified person in the position.
2.   The city recorder is an administrative position that makes administrative decisions. Administrative positions should be filled based on the knowledge, skills and abilities of the candidates who apply.
3.  As an elected position, only registered voters of the City of Ashland are eligible to hold the position. This limits the number of qualified candidates for this position.  As an elected position with a four year term, candidates may not pursue certification as a municipal clerk or advanced training in this area. Better qualified candidates may be attracted if the position is appointed and has the potential of being a career option. 
4.   The city recorder position would better fit in with the city management structure if the position were appointed. 
5.   Work schedule, duties and coordination with other City functions would be more flexible and would be better managed within the administrative structure of city government. 
6.   The committee feels City government will be just as transparent and open with an appointed recorder as it is with an elected recorder.
Changing the recorder to an appointed position requires voter approval of a charter amendment. Although it has been common practice for Ashland to refer charter amendments in primary and general elections, this is probably done for reasons of cost.  A charter amendment can be referred to any election, including a special election if called for by the Council.
Further recommendations
1.   The committee recommends that the hiring and selection process be handled administratively with the selected candidate appointed by the mayor with approval by the city council.
2.   A formal outline (or job description) of duties and qualifications for the city recorder position should be developed.
3.   Wording changes for the charter amendment will be developed by City Attorney Dave Lohman.
4.   The committee recommends submitting this to the voters in the May 2016 primary election.  Given the significance of this change, the City should refer this to a vote in a high-turnout election. However, if referred in November 2016, the issue stands to be lost in the crush of the many other items (including the many ballot measures) that are sure to be on that ballot.  
5.   Regardless of whether the position remains elected or becomes appointed, the committee recommends that the Ashland Municipal Code, Chapter 2.08, be amended to remove from the recorderís duties those functions that more properly belong in other departments. If the position remains elected, the committee recommends a charter amendment to remove outdated language and duties in the charter and address minimum qualifications and salary structure.

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