Oxnard will decide Tuesday whether to make its treasurer an appointed rather than elected official.
Proponents of the change that will appear on the ballot as Measure A say the city's size, revenue and $70-million investment portfolio dictate the need for a highly skilled treasurer who would either be appointed by the City Council or, if the council chose, by the city manager .
"The only requirement we have now for a treasurer is that the person be 18 years old, a resident of Oxnard and a good campaigner," said the measure's chief proponent, Oxnard Councilman Manuel M. Lopez.
The premise behind having a treasurer elected every four years, he says, is comparable to "saying that the city attorney could be elected without being an attorney or that the public works director could be elected without being an engineer. That strikes me as pretty ludicrous."
Last year's resignation of Treasurer Robert de la Cruz provides a "dispassionate" opportunity to rid the city of an archaic and inadequate practice, say Lopez and other proponents including Edward W. Robings, president of Oxnard College and the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce.
When Oxnard incorporated in 1903, it followed the state's "general law" guidelines for setting up a city, which include an elected treasurer.
Since then, Oxnard has grown markedly. Of the 21 cities in the state that are larger than Oxnard, only four have elected treasurers, he points out.
But councilman Michael A. Plisky does not agree.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it," the measure's chief opponent said. "Past elected treasurers have done a commendable job."
Rather than ensuring that the city gets a qualified professional, appointing a treasurer would only "make it more difficult to get rid of a bad person," Plisky said. "It's much easier to recall an elected official than fire someone who is entrenched in the bureaucracy." And, because elected treasurers do not have to report to city officials, they have "an independent accountability" that protects public funds against misuse, Plisky said.
Treasurer Geraldine Furr, who was appointed to the post last year to fill de la Cruz's vacancy, also opposes the measure. Furr, who had held the office for 23 years before De la Cruz, said state-mandated procedures help guide newcomers to the treasurer's position, as does the California Municipal Treasurer's Assn.
Furr said she has not decided whether she would run if the measure is defeated.