For the first time in 11 years, more than one person wants to be the city treasurer in Hermosa Beach.
The candidates are: former City Councilman Gary Brutsch, 45, a self-employed management consultant; Elaine C. Doerfling, 43, a journalism student and free-lance clerk for several South Bay cities, and Sandra I. Hughes, 46, owner of a Hermosa Beach-based escrow company.
The key responsibility of the part-time city treasurer, who is paid $500 a month, is administering a $5-million investment portfolio. In addition, the treasurer is responsible for preparing a monthly report of receipts, disbursements and fund balances for the city's $13.5-million budget.
Norma Goldbach, who has been city treasurer since 1982, is not seeking reelection. None of the candidates have extensive experience making investment decisions.
Hughes said she acts as a neutral party when handling financial transactions for clients in her escrow business and sees herself performing a similar role in the city. She has had limited experience investing money for her company, she said.
Brutsch does not have any experience investing money other than his own, but said his administrative experience with the Los Angeles Police Department makes him qualified for the position. Brutsch, now retired, worked for 21 years for the LAPD, part of that as a supervisor in the administrative office, where he oversaw a $28-million budget, he said.
He learned about Hermosa Beach's governmental administration while serving as a councilman from 1982 to 1986, he said. He also was mayor in 1984.
Though Doerfling also lacks experience investing money, she said her 14 years of experience in local governments, including bookkeeping work, would serve her well if she were elected. She worked in Hermosa Beach for more than four years, first as a switchboard operator and then as a secretary in the Planning Department. She now is a free-lance clerk for several South Bay cities, taking the minutes for council and committee meetings.
She served on the city's Board of Zoning Adjustments for two years and is treasurer of the Friends of 1736 House--a support group for the shelter for battered women and children.
The treasurer's race is colored by the discovery earlier this year that City Council members were unaware of an $818,000 surplus.
Baffled by Surplus
City treasurer candidates Doerfling and Hughes said they were baffled that a surplus nearly 75 times larger than the $11,000 surplus expected by council members went undetected by some city officials and unreported by others.
Council members said at that time that they got most of their information from former City Manager Gregory T. Meyer, who continually told them that the city was in dire financial trouble.
"If that would have happened in my office, somebody would have had to have known what happened," Hughes said.
The council has insisted on clearer financial reporting since then, and none of the city officials held the treasurer responsible. Goldbach said: "It's really in the purview of the city manager. . . . Those are not my duties. I'm not an auditor."
Doerfling said, "I don't know if I could prevent something like that," but said she would review the reports and clarify them if needed.
All three candidates said they would serve as a watchdog to keep the council and the citizens informed about the city's finances.
Hughes and Doerfling emphasized that they are not seeking a political office and view the job as a working position.
"I don't see any issues," Hughes said. "I've been told all along it's a nonpolitical office."
Brutsch said: "The position of city treasurer is a management position and I think to the degree that they can network with the council to help set policy in regards to finances, then I guess, yes, (it's a political office). But to try to be a sixth city councilman, then no."
He ran unsuccessfully last year for the South Bay Hospital District Board of Trustees. He rebutted critics who say he is trying to revive his political career: "There are some people who don't support me who say I'm running for treasurer because I want to be a city councilman. I've already done that; I've been mayor."
Brutsch is married, has one daughter and has lived in Hermosa Beach for 18 years. He has a bachelor's degree in business management and a master's degree in communications.
Doerfling is married to former Councilman Hank Doerfling--who served from 1972 to 1980--has two children and has lived in Hermosa Beach for 21 years. She is a full-time student at El Camino College.
Hughes is divorced, has no children, has lived in Hermosa Beach for most of the past 15 years, has owned a business in the city for nine years and is a graduate of Westchester High School.