OCEANSIDE — Gary Felien was appointed city treasurer in a 3-2 vote Feb. 11. Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted against. The appointment for the position, left vacant after the death of beloved four-term treasurer Rosemary Jones, 88, came just within the 30-day window allowed before a special election would have to be held and saved the city $450,000 in election costs.
While council members agreed that Felien is qualified for the job, Sanchez questioned why Felien did not disclose that he serves on the San Diego County Republican Party Central Committee with Councilmen Rocky Chavez and Jerry Kern. “Mr. Felien did not disclose his relationship with council members,” Sanchez said. “It’s a very close-knit republican group. All I could think of is that he is not for open government.”
Wood and Sanchez said that they received numerous contacts saying that there was a guaranteed vote “fix” for Felien. “Why pick someone who is so fraught with conflict?” Sanchez asked.
Felien denied any vote “fix.” He said he called all council members and invited them to talk to him if they had questions about his background. “The only three that called are the three that voted for me,” Felien said. “I wanted to downplay my political involvement. It wasn’t a qualification for the position.”
Kern said he did not see the shared political affiliation as an issue. “This is a nonpartisan job,” Kern said. “It has nothing to do with what people do in their own time.”
Several community members voiced their support for Felien and praised his ability, character and community service. “He’s a conservative money manager, he’s a team player, and he’s qualified by reputation,” George Barrrante, an Oceanside resident, said.
Kern also spoke highly of Felien. “Based on his education and experience, he has a very thorough understanding of the market,” Kern said. “At this point in our economy, this is not a job you can learn on the job.”
Felien said he wished it had been a 5-0 vote, and added he is ready to begin the job as city treasurer and oversee the city’s investment portfolio, which s valued at $181 million. “I plan to listen and learn and get a thorough understanding of it,” Felien said.
Felien was sworn in as treasurer Feb. 12, and will serve the remainder of the term that ends December 2012.
There was discussion of making the office of treasurer an appointed position in the future.