Officials call for departure of Nevada County clerk | SierraSun.com

Officials call for departure of Nevada County clerk

Dave Moller
Sun News Service

NEVADA CITY ” Nevada County officials have asked Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Smith to step down within the next few days, and are looking for legal ways to ban elected officials from holding second jobs in the future.

County supervisors also are discussing whether to freeze Smith’s salary, they said Friday. If she continues working in both Nevada County and at her new job as city clerk of Rio Vista, she will earn nearly $40,000 plus benefits from both governments during the 12-week transition period she negotiated with the Sacramento River delta town.

“There’s discussion going on in regards to her stepping down,” District 2 Supervisor Sue Horne said Friday. “We’re trying to make it happen within a few days, but we can’t demand it because she’s an elected official.”

Supervisors Horne, Hank Weston, Nate Beason and Ted Owens all said no formal letter has been issued asking Smith to resign before her announced departure date of June 30.

But all of them said they want to explore creating a county law to see that the current situation with Smith does not occur again.

Smith announced her resignation Monday night, but did not tell the supervisors that she had been moonlighting as city clerk of Rio Vista for the last month.

When Rio Vista Mayor Eddie Woodruff heard Friday that Nevada County supervisors were upset about Smith’s taking of the city job, he said, “There’s always two sides. She has done with us what she has said she would do. It seems to be a logical transition.”

Woodruff got back Wednesday from Japan and said no city officials or council members have contacted him with any concerns about Smith or how she handled her resignation in Nevada County.

“I hope this works out,” Woodruff said. “We don’t want to disrupt anything up there.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Spencer said he was going to give county officials several days to negotiate with Smith, but did not want talks to drag out.

“It’s in her best interest to not mess things up,” Spencer said. “If I heard she had not contacted us, I would have stepped up the pressure.

“I want daily updates from them as to what’s going on because we’re very concerned about that department,” Spencer said. “If she causes difficulty here, it may not be so good for her other job.

“If she decides to stay on, I expect her here on the job,” Spencer said.

Supervisors could move to freeze Smith’s $90,000 per year salary here, Spencer said, but he did not know if it could be done legally.

“We need to look at this situation and address it with an ordinance so we don’t have this happen again, and we have a plan for the future,” District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens said.

No letter has been sent to Smith because the county wants to determine it has legal authority to do so, Owens said. As an elected official “she doesn’t fall under the auspices of employee codes.”

County Counsel Mike Jamison said rumors of a law saying an elected official has to work either one day per month or per quarter appear to be misunderstandings. There is a state law that says an elected office becomes vacant if the person stops the discharge of their duties for three consecutive months, unless they’re sick or have official permission.

E. Christina Dabis, Nevada County’s treasurer and tax collector, said she also found the statute, but said, “It’s subjective. Who decides what the discharge of her duties are?”

Dabis, in her 25th year in elected office and 32nd year in Nevada County government, said no matter what the law demands, she spends well beyond 40 hours per week doing her job, including nights and weekends to keep up. Dabis said she isn’t complaining because she loves her profession.

“I guess it depends upon the person’s ethics,” Dabis said.

Horne said a swift resignation by Smith is ethical and necessary to secure the office and its functions.

“Ms. Smith dropped a bomb on the county that impacted her departments,” Horne said. “It’s very disruptive.”

A new clerk-recorder is needed soon, Horne said, because a special mail-ballot election for the Twin Ridges School District is coming up in June, and there will be a presidential primary and national election in 2008. Daily signing duties that can be done only by an elected clerk-recorder also are needed, Horne said, and contract discussions for elections equipment need to be finalized.