Colton, Having Reduced City Council From 7 To 5, Looks To Eliminate Elected City Clerk

Prompted by the death of longtime City Clerk Carolina Padilla-Barrera eight months ago, the Colton City Council this week voted to put a measure on the March 2024 ballot to convert Colton’s city clerk position from an elected to an appointed one.
Padilla-Barrera succeeded Helen Ramos, who subsequently became a councilwoman, as city clerk. She was reelected in 2004, but was defeated in 2008 by Eileen Gomez and fell short once more in challenging Gomez in the 2012 election.
In 2014, however, Gomez elected to go to work in Laguna Niguel as city clerk there, when Rod Foster departed as city manager from Colton to take on the job in that Orange County city. Padilla-Barrera, who was then 70, was selected by the city council to replace Gomez. Padilla-Barrera was reelected without opposition in 2016 and again in 2020.
Little fanfare attended her death in March. Deputy City Clerk Stephanie M. Vargas is filling the city clerk’s position at present.
City officials, following a trend among cities to move toward having hired/appointed city clerks in recent years, this week had the council consider transforming the city clerk’s post from one that is elected to one chosen by the city manager and ratified by the city council.
The city council, with Mayor Frank Navarro and council members David Toro, Kelly Chastain and Luis Gonzalez prevailing and Councilman John Echevarria dissenting, voted to put a ballot measure on the March 5, 2024 ballot to make the city clerk an appointed position.
Gigi Hanna, who was San Bernardino’s last elected city clerk who won election in 2011 and 2015 before the city went to even-year elections, was in place when the city went to employing an appointed city clerk in 2020, following a change in the city charter in 2016 that eliminated the elected city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer posts in the county seat.
Hanna said there are compelling arguments pro and con for a city having an elected city clerk.
“Being able to elect their city officials is part of the control of their government that citizens exercise,” she said. “People, generally, like to know someone at City Hall. When someone runs for city clerk, that person has to get out and campaign and talk to a lot of people. In that way, if you are engage in the community, you probably know the city clerk. That’s one reason to have an elected city clerk.
“There is also the notion of independence,” Hanna continued. “A city clerk who is answerable to the voters is a way of having another check and balance in the elective process, so that you don’t just have a figurehead doing the bidding of whoever else is in charge. The city clerk who is a candidate before the people has an incentive to live up to the ethics and standards that should apply to the importance of the job and what the community’s expectations are.”
On the other hand, she said, “Just because someone is elected does not mean he or she is trained and skilled in the way a city clerk is supposed to function. That is why you are seeing more cities going with professionalized city clerks, ones who are able to carry out the duties the job entails.”
At present, 17 of San Bernardino County’s cities/towns – Adelanto, Apple Valley, Big Bear Lake, Chino, Chino Hills, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Highland, Loma Linda, Montclair, Needles, San Bernardino, Twentynine Palms, Upland, Victorville, Yucaipa and Yucca Valley have appointed city clerks, while seven of the cities/towns – Barstow, Colton, Fontana, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands and Rialto, have appointed ones.
Colton will expend roughly $75,000 in holding the election.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply