San Jose’s City Clerk barely squeaked by with her job after coming under fire for misguiding candidates about local election law.
While Toni Taber will have another chance to prove herself, she may be stripped of some duties and undergo an audit.
Taber endured a closed-session performance review last week, after city officials learned that her office had told candidates to follow state law instead of local law on reporting late campaign donations.
Her bum advice resulted in hundreds of violations for council members in the past two years, including Mayor Sam Liccardo. Prompted by a citizen complaint, the city’s Ethics Commission billed newly elected north side Councilman Manh Nguyen with a $10,000 fine.
“Repeated problems have been reported privately to the mayor’s office and more publicly to the media regarding difficulties that council members and candidates have had in getting reliable, accurate information from the office of the clerk on issues ranging from election-related rules to office budgets,” Liccardo wrote in a memo to the Rules and Open Government Committee.
The mayor said City Attorney Rick Doyle should take over responding to questions on election law and writing up guidelines for candidates. In his memo, Liccardo noted Taber’s missteps that put candidates at risk of paying out tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
“The city clerk previously informed a compliance official from my mayoral campaign that she should comply with the state rules for reporting of end-of-cycle campaign contributions in that June election,” Liccardo wrote. “The city clerk indicated in that email that she would similarly direct other council campaigns. Nearly every single campaign followed that direction, which proved to be inaccurate, as multiple candidates violated contrary local rules; council member Manh Nguyen is merely the latest candidate to suffer from this advice.”
Several council offices have also had trouble getting accurate, timely information about budgets, Liccardo continued.
“These problems raise questions about core competencies and of the allocation of responsibilities within City Hall,” he wrote. “It appears more sensible to ensure that responsibilities of interpreting rules and laws lie with the city attorney, whose employees obviously have legal training that the clerk lacks.”
The mayor asked City Auditor Sharon Erickson to conduct a performance review of Taber’s office. The audit would review her core responsibilities and figure out how the office failed to provide reliable information on election law and council office budgets.
Taber was appointed city clerk by the council in 2013.
- San Jose may adopt an equal pay ordinance, taking a cue from Santa Clara County. “The recent celebration of the 95th anniversary of women getting the right to vote puts a spotlight on the continued importance of treating all members of our society equitably,” Councilman Don Rocha wrote in a memo co-signed by Liccardo and council members Ash Kalra and Magdalena Carrasco. “One of the most significant barriers women and minorities still face is an economic one: disparity in pay.” The city, as an employer of 6,000 people, should examine its policies regarding pay equity, Rocha said. “By taking up this issue, we can reaffirm our longstanding commitment to equity in the workplace,” the memo continued, “as well as serve as an example for other employers within our community.”
- Vice Mayor Rose Herrera said the city should model its equal pay ordinance after a newly signed state law. California led the nation in signing a pay equity bill, she said, and San Jose should follow suit. “This bill ensures that our state is on its way toward the toughest gender pay equity policy in the nation,” Herrera wrote.
WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260