CARSON — A proposal by members of the Carson City Council to reduce the salary of the city clerk by $100,000 a year failed to pass, leaving the vacant position and its duties to be decided in a special election in November.
The recent departure of longtime City Clerk Donesia Gause-Aldana prompted the ouncil to seek changes to the elected position’s salary and duties while the seat is vacant. Gause-Aldana left the position in April to become Riverside’s city clerk.
The resolution proposed to reduce the city clerk’s annual salary from $125,000 to $25,000 and remove the $550 per month reimbursement allowance for “mileage and business expenses” currently provided to the position.
Proponents of the resolution cited the reduction in duties for the city clerk’s office as a basis for seeking the salary reduction. The city clerk’s office no longer handles processing of passports and has consolidated elections with Los Angeles County. Regular duties are now performed by the chief deputy clerk.
Councilman Jawane Hilton, who voted against the resolution, felt the move would make the
position “beholden to the city manager.” Hilton alerted Carson residents to the proposed resolution via a recorded voice message.
“I want to alert you to item number 31 that appears on the June 15 City Council agenda,” Hilton said in his voice message. “The mayor and council, not me, want to reduce the elected city clerk’s salary and have already slashed the city clerk’s staff to just two people.
“Now they want to take the salary and expect the person to work. The clerk and treasurer are two elected officials who do not serve at the pleasure of the city manager. That is the way it should be. Someone should be in City Hall looking out for the benefit of all of the residents and not have to answer to a city manager who the council can dismiss at any time.”
Gause-Aldana announced her departure on April 6 after nine years of service.
She was Compton’s deputy city clerk for three years and an analyst in the Long Beach city clerk’s office for eight years before replacing Helen Kawagoe as Carson’s city clerk in 2012.
Two years after Gause-Aldana’s appointment, then Mayor Jim Dear ran for the city clerk’s position and won. Gause-Aldana in turn ran for a city council seat and won. After Dear was recalled from the position, under suspicion he was seeking to pad his retirement, Gause-Aldana returned as city clerk.
Gause-Aldana’s office came under fire related to the added service of passport processing, which allowed her to hire additional staff to the office.
Hilton was concerned the council was seeking to make a “power grab” with the city clerk office, which is responsible for organizing and printing out the agenda for the city council’s bi-weekly meetings and managing, maintaining and monitoring the city’s records of all official council actions, contracts and bonds.
“The office of the city clerk is arguably the most vital city office in providing transparency to the residents of any municipality,” Hilton said. “The office serves as the city’s elections official, legislative administrator and records manager.
“The city clerk has proven especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic in which residents and other stakeholders of the city of Carson have been limited in their ability to properly interact and engage with the city,” Hilton added. :The council should not get involved in personnel matters. The office needs to maintain independence from the council if we are to have fair elections and the preservation of our democracy.”
The resolution failed on a 2-2 vote. Carson Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes voted no with Hilton.
Councilmen Jim Dear and Cedric Hicks abstained. Had the resolution passed, candidates for city clerk would have been informed that the position is “ceremonial” with reduced duties and salary.
When Hilton was asked if he thought the council would bring back the matter, he said he’s unsure.
“I don’t think it will be brought back, but hey, it’s Carson,” Hilton said.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.