Begin process of possibly changing office to appointed instead of elected post
By Daniel Borsuk
The list of candidates for the County Recorder/Clerk-Registrar of Voters’ position was whittled down from 22 to six candidates at a special meeting of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The six semi-finalists will undergo thorough interviews at the supervisors’ next meeting scheduled for February 4th when a potential finalist could be unveiled.
Still in the running is former Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who resides in Alameda County but 1.5 miles from the Contra Costa County line and attracted a major political lobbying effort with at least 10 supporters speaking on her behalf, citing her two terms of office as a State Assembly member and her service in the Dublin-San Ramon and LaMorinda communities.
According to Supervisor Candace Andersen’s Chief of Staff, Gayle Israel, Baker has already informed the supervisors that she has secured an apartment in Walnut Creek to meet the Feb. 4 deadline when the supervisors are expected to announce a finalist for the county clerk post. Baker had informed the supervisors about the Walnut Creek apartment at the supervisors’ Jan. 7 meeting.
One Baker backer, Cindy Chin, said the supervisors should appoint Baker to fill former County Clerk/Recorder Joseph Canciamilla’s term of office that expires in 2021.
“You need to take the money and politics out of this position. Catharine Baker would bring integrity to the office,” Chin said.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill made the semi-finalist list, even though she was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Acting County Recorder-Clerk Kristin Connelly, who has been on the staff at the county office of clerk-recorder since 1990, got the nod to proceed in the supervisors’ deliberations on February 4.
A finalist could possibly be announced at the supervisors February 4 meeting.
Kristin Connelly, who is president and chief executive officer of the East Bay Leadership Council and executive director of the Contra Costa Economic Partnership, will interview for the top County Election Officer post that pays an annual salary of $350,000.
Current County Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Kanopasek of Walnut Creek will move forward in the selection process on February 4.
Mark Friedman, who has served on the El Cerrito City Council for more than 11 years and works for a Fremont-based consulting firm, also made the cut to be interviewed.
Supervisors instructed deputy county counsel Mary Ann Mason to prepare a report on what options are available to transform the County Recorder-Clerk and Registrar of Voters from an elected position to an appointed position.
During the meeting, League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley President Susan Rena suggested that supervisors study the feasibility of changing the position that pays a salary of $350,000 a year from an elected position to an appointed position.
“The board of supervisors has the authority to convert the office from an elected to appointed office,” Mason said. Supervisors would have to place a proposition on the ballot to get voter approval to make the change.
Supervisors plan to fill the vacant Recorder-Clerk/Registrar of Voters’ post since former office holder Joseph Canciamilla resigned from the post on October 30. It was eventually revealed Canciamilla resigned after he was cited by California Fair Political Practices Commission auditors that he had misused $130,529 in campaign funds for personal purposes, including renovations to a Hawaiian home.
In late November, the California Fair Political Practices Commission fined the former state assembly member and former county supervisor $150,000. The Pittsburg native still faces potential criminal charges and pension forfeiture.
Other applicants for the County Clerk-Recorder post who did not make the cut were: Karen Basting of Walnut Creek, Paul Burgarino of Antioch the Community Education and Engagement Specialist for the Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department, Martin Dunlop of Martinez, Herman Farmer of Bay Point, Richard Hernandez of Martinez, Concord Council Member Laura Hoffmeister, Hakam Ibrahim of Walnut Creek, Debra McKillop of Martinez, Elliot Meltzer of Martinez, Tina Norton of Oakley, Courtney O’Brien of Martinez, Scott Rafferty of Walnut Creek, Martinez Vice Mayor Mark Ross, Dedra Siguenza of Martinez, Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen, and Walnut Creek Council Member Justin Wedel.