Election 2010: Who will be Nevada County’s treasurer-tax collector? | SierraSun.com

Election 2010: Who will be Nevada County’s treasurer-tax collector?

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

John Hart/Sun News Service photosTina Vernon, left, and Dai Meagher are running for Nevada County Treasurer-Tax Collector.

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; The race to determine the next Nevada County Treasurer-Tax Collector has been described by both sides as vitriolic, with each candidate questioning the other’s credentials and politics.

County financial analyst Tina Vernon, 39, and local CPA Dai Meagher, 49, are vying for the post that essentially oversees the county’s $100 million-plus financial portfolio. The job and#8212; held for more than two decades by Chris Dabis and#8212; pays a salary of $120,000, with another $30,000 in benefits.

Through last month, Meagher spent $33,163 on his campaign and Vernon $26,087, according to campaign finance statements filed at the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder’s office.

Vernon is a financial analyst with the Nevada County CEO’s office and, in her limited free time, she rescues horses. A Bear River High School graduate and 1995 graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, Vernon eventually went on to earn her MBA from the online University of Phoenix.

Dai Meagher owns a Certified Public Accounting firm and is a Nordic skiing enthusiast. A Bay Area native and 1985 graduate of the University of Southern California, he passed his CPA exam in 2006.

Meagher is backed by a cavalcade of former county politicians, including former Nevada City Treasurer George Foster and former county Clerk-Recorder Bruce Bollinger, as well as the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee and#8212; for now. Contributors have chipped in more than $3,300 to his campaign this year, according to campaign finance documents.

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Vernon’s supporters include all five members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, two former Grass Valley mayors and former Treasurer-Tax Collector Dabis, who resigned the seat in December 2009 three years into her seventh term. Vernon’s financial supporters have donated more than $6,100 this year.

With just less than two weeks remaining before election day, both campaigns continue to ramp up the heat.

Meagher is registered as Declined To State, but had been a registered Republican before registering as a Democrat in 2008 and then switching again to Declined to State because he said the position he seeks is a nonpartisan. He said he switched from Republican to Democrat in 2008 because he didn’t agree with the federal spending pattern under the Bush administration.

and#8220;In 2008 I was disappointed in the financial stewardship of the national Republican Party. I felt that they were in a position where they claimed they would balance the budget and would be fiscally prudent, and they didn’t live up to that,and#8221; he said.

Vernon had been a Democrat before registering Republican in 2008.

and#8220;I had been voting more conservatively for years, and after taking a harder look at what my voting trend had been, I decided that I should change my party affiliation to that which best described my beliefs,and#8221; said Vernon. and#8220;I consider myself a moderate conservative, who looks at all angles and will make my decision by being fully informed.and#8221;

Meagher said he is running because Vernon isn’t qualified.

and#8220;I’m only running for the office because my opponent doesn’t have the qualifications that are necessary to run this office,and#8221; Meagher said. and#8220;She’ll be the first person to go from a clerk to a CFO/Treasurer position perhaps in modern history. If you look at graduates from the University of Phoenix, they aren’t CFOs at any Fortune 1000 companies.and#8221;

University of Southern California grads, by contrast, would populate such a list, Meagher said. His CPA designation makes Meagher stand out as the most qualified candidate, he said.

and#8220;The county needs someone qualified in this treasurer’s position, this is not a trivial task,and#8221; Meagher said. and#8220;There are almost 100,000 people in this county who are depending on good government and they deserve to have a professional in this office.and#8221;

Meagher plans to find savings in the treasury’s technology and debt-repayment practices, both of which he called outdated and insufficient.

Vernon doesn’t place an importance on the CPA designation, touting instead her qualifications as a financial analyst in the county’s CEO’s office for the past seven-plus years.

and#8220;There is no importance in holding a CPA credential in this race, just as I believe my campaign has demonstrated there is no importance in the formal training in Treasury Management being touted by my opponent,and#8221; Vernon said. She attained a Treasury Management certification online from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson School of Government in about six hours, scoring a 100 percent on the final exam with a less-than-rigorous studying plan, she said. The same credential is listed prominently on Meagher’s campaign website.

and#8220;It’s easy to mislead voters who may have no knowledge of the duties of these offices into believing that some important-sounding credentials are important. I guess I didn’t feel the need to put and#8216;Tina Vernon, MBA’ on my signs or to add the letters after my signature. All MBA means is that I have completed three additional years of college study in Business Administration, and that, alone, wouldn’t qualify me for this position, either. I chose not to mislead voters by claiming it was necessary for this position. I have the proven and trusted skills, qualifications and experience necessary to excel as Nevada County’s Treasurer and Tax Collector.and#8221;

Meagher brushes aside the apparent ease with which Vernon claims she passed the Georgia test, citing her education.

and#8220;The University of Phoenix prepared her very well for online coursework,and#8221; Meagher said.

Vernon hopes to find savings for the office through collaboration with other county treasurers.

Meagher threw his hat into the ring last March, nearly two months after Vernon announced her candidacy. Former treasurer Dabis touted Vernon as her successor, saying she had spent a couple of years grooming her. Dabis resigned the seat three years into a four-year term last year, leaving Marcia Salter in her place on an interim basis.

and#8220;She (Dabis) took me aside and said she knew my work ethic and my professionalism in the county. She wanted me to serve the voters of Nevada County,and#8221; Vernon said.

Meagher finds the deal questionable, charging Vernon with leading a secret campaign before formally announcing her interest in the position in January.

and#8220;I don’t think that’s appropriate for someone running for this position,and#8221; Meagher said. and#8220;It’s just inappropriate for the treasurer to secretly groom someone because you don’t want to give any reason for someone to think there was favoritism involved.and#8221;

Meagher also takes Vernon to task for switching parties from Democrat to Republican in 2008.

and#8220;She registered as a Republican because this county is a conservative county,and#8221; Meagher said. and#8220;The Republican Central Committee saw this as a ploy, which is why they didn’t endorse her.and#8221;

The local Republican Central Committee isn’t endorsing the race because it is a non-partisan seat, said Nevada County Republican leader Rich Ulrey. The Nevada County Democratic Central Committee endorsed Meagher, but has scheduled a meeting for Thursday to consider withdrawing that support after some Democrats learned that Meagher has been aligned to some conservative causes and figures.

and#8220;He (Meagher) has a stronger academic background, and it would be nice to have someone new in the office,and#8221; said Democratic Central Committee Chair Margaret Joehnck.

Meagher is also backed by the very conservative California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners (CABPRO), which is made up primarily of Western Nevada County residents. He also signed on with the Americans for Taxpayer Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, promising to oppose new taxes. The group takes on a number of conservative issues which are not related to new taxes, stances Meagher was unaware of at the time he signed the pledge, he said.