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Supervisors weigh letting voters say if top financial job should be non-elected

Sonoma County voters this November could face the decision whether to end their say on who occupies the top financial post overseeing county government.

The proposal would eliminate the traditional countywide vote to select the auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector in favor of an appointment made by the Board of Supervisors.

The office-holder oversees the county's $1.65 billion treasury, including school, community college and special district funds, serves on the county pension system board and manages county auditing, financial reporting, local tax collection and bond issuance.

The incumbent, David Sundstrom, was appointed in December to fill the remainder of a term vacated by the retirement of longtime auditor-controller Rod Dole. He receives an annual salary of $208,644, one of the highest in county government.

The Board of Supervisors is set to consider the proposal Tuesday.

County administrators say the move to an appointed post would attract a stronger pool of candidates for the office. It also would allow the county to apply performance evaluations and higher minimum qualifications than those currently required by the state.

But opponents say it takes a choice away from voters and eliminates the office's independence from supervisors. That separation, current and former officials say, is vital to carry out the job's key oversight and investment duties.

The proposal requires support from four supervisors to be placed on the ballot. At least two board members say they are unconvinced of the need for a change.

Supervisor Mike McGuire voiced skepticism that a switch to board appointment would improve accountability and financial oversight for county taxpayers.

"I'm looking at this proposal with a critical eye," he said.


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