Story by Noah Kuhn
Associate News Editor
Photo by Alicia Alderete
Community members discussed their concerns about Measure C at a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 22, fearing the measure would reduce public participation in city government. Measure C’s passing would eliminate the elected city clerk position from South Pasadena government, moving the role over to an appointed city clerk.
Presently, the office of the City Clerk has four positions: an elected clerk who serves a four year term, a head City Clerk appointed by the City Manager, a deputy city clerk, and a receptionist. Measure C removes the elected City Clerk position and transitions the partially elected office into one completely appointed by the City Manager.
The job of a City Clerk is to safeguard the democratic process by overseeing elections, handling official records and documents, and coordinating the recruitment process of all city advisory bodies. The City’s main argument in favor of the consolidation is that the current situation is a duplication of effort and costly resources.
The elected City Clerk is not required to have any professional training. Conversely, the appointed Chief City Clerk needs to be certified by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. For this reason, what was once a single role split into two in 2013: a ceremonial elected City Clerk who is paid a monthly $300 stipend, and an appointed position who handles major responsibilities like managing elections.
An analysis by the South Pasadena city attorney revealed that over 70 percent of all California cities have transitioned from elected to appointed city clerks.
However community member John Srebalus believes that the benefits of the elected City Clerk are valuable, irrespective of that person’s professional experience.
“If we were just to have an average person with average qualifications… that would still be a good thing,” Srebalus said. “We’re talking about an extra layer of accountability to the public, extra oversight.”
The current elected City Clerk, Evelyn Zneimer, believes the initiative depletes public authority.
“Measure C gives power to the City Council, which is actually against the city code,” Zneimer said. “I urge, as a resident, to not give your right to vote to a selected few, five people, who can appoint anybody of their choosing.”
South Pasadena Municipal Code rests the power of the City Clerk’s office in the elected, not appointed, position. Measure C would modify this clause and shift this power to the city council.
“If approved… the ordinance will make the office of City Clerk appointive rather than elective and authorize the City Council to appoint a new City Clerk at the earliest possibility following the execution of the ordinance” (Measure C).
Resident Jonathan Eisenberg saw this as a potential conflict of interest.
“You can deliver your ballot to the City Clerk’s office in this upcoming election. It’s a real role,” Eisenberg said. “So why make that person directly responsible to the people who are in the election? It seems like a recipe for mischief.”
South Pasadena will take to the ballot box on Tuesday, Nov. 5 to vote on Measure C, deciding whether or not to eliminate the elected City Clerk position.