OCEANSIDE — City Council voted unanimously to appoint Gary Ernst as city treasurer on Dec. 23, after hearing from eight applicants at a workshop held Dec. 21.
Ernst brings experience as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch to the position. He has worked a bank administrator, mortgage finance administrator and treasury investment administrator.
He said his goal as city treasurer is to keep things running steady. Ernst vowed to protect the assets of the city and get the very best returns. “One of the best-kept secrets of this city is how well this department is run,” Ernst said. “It’s a well-oiled machine.”
Ernst replaces Gary Felien, who was elected to City Council in November. He will serve the remainder of Felien’s term, which runs through December 2012.
Felien said he had seen Ernst’s work over the last two years on the Citizens Ad Hoc Committee and feels Ernst’s professional experience will allow a seamless transition. “He can jump in with both feet right away,” Felien said.
The vote to appoint Ernst followed a failed vote to appoint retired insurance broker Larry Hatter. Mayor Jim Wood, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Felien voted against Hatter’s appointment.
Sanchez said she had concerns about Hatter because he rented a building he owns to a loan-modification business that was the subject of a recent investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the State Bar of California.
She also said she was bothered that Hatter’s insurance business moved from Oceanside to Carlsbad after he retired. “I have concerns if this reflects good business practices,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she was surprised Hatter had not explained the incidents when he was asked to explain any negative information regarding business decisions during the workshop interview.
Councilmen Kern, Feller and Felien said Sanchez besmirched Hatter unfairly. “A person is entitled to rent his property to anyone he wants to,” Feller said. “You can’t know who is going to break the law ahead of time.”
Hatter said he had no control of either of the incidents.