The Coast News Group
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Oceanside City Hall. File photo

Oceanside sets new qualifications for treasurer

OCEANSIDE — The city has set new qualifications for its elected treasurer position.

The Oceanside City Council voted on Oct. 5 in support of establishing a set of qualifications that potential candidates for city treasurer must meet before they can be elected by voters.

A candidate for city treasurer must at least meet one of the following four criteria: bachelor’s degree in any subject with at least 16 units of accounting, auditing, economics, business administration or finance; valid certificate issued by the California State Board of Accountancy; designated a Chartered Financial Analyst, or a certified California Municipal Treasurer.

According to staff, the qualifications are based on research of other organizations and feedback from the California Municipal Treasurers Association. 

Assistant City Manager Michael Gossman said the qualifications still allow flexibility for candidates while also ensuring that they are qualified to fulfill the duties of treasurer, which provides oversight to the city’s $500 million investment portfolio.

The city treasurer only provides oversight to the investment policy, meanwhile the treasury manager is the one in charge of the policy.

The move follows a report recently released that found Treasurer Victor Roy had violated several conduct and ethics codes, including viewing inappropriate material at a public library. 

Roy has not been present at any City Council meeting since Treasury Manager Steve Hodges brought several allegations against him that initiated the investigation in June. Roy was also not present at the Oct. 5 meeting. 

Hodges also alleged that Roy made risky investments to the portfolio costing the city millions of dollars, however the report clarified that Roy could not have done so because he only provides oversight and cannot choose or make investment decisions. Only Hodges in his current position as treasury manager can make those decisions which are then reviewed by both the treasurer and the city’s financial services director. 

Hodges has since resigned from his position as treasury manager. 

Mayor Esther Sanchez was the only council member opposed to setting qualifications for the elected treasurer position. She noted that while the report did find that Roy viewed inappropriate material at the library, that violation was not related to the new treasurer qualifications. 

“I’m a little concerned that we’re moving on the treasurer when we haven’t done anything for the council or city clerk’s office,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez also noted that there are no qualifications for the state treasurer position beyond being at least an 18-year-old registered voter, which were the same qualifications the Oceanside treasurer position had previously. 

“It is not up to this dais to decide if the voters made a mistake, it is up to the voters to decide that,” Sanchez said.

Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido are the only cities among the county’s 19 cities that still have an elected treasurer. Prior to the council’s decision to implement the qualifications, only Carlsbad had minimal qualifications for treasurer: a four-year college degree in finance or a related field and four years of financial experience. 

“I think it’s only responsible for us to have someone who understands the position to be a watchdog of over $500 million dollars,” said Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim. “We’re still leaving it up to the voters, we’re just allowing the voters to actually vet someone who has educational knowledge of the field they’ll be working in.”

Councilmember Peter Weiss also noted the most offensive element of the investigation report was that Roy lied when he claimed he was only investigating a citizen’s allegation that the library was not filtering inappropriate material.

When speaking with investigators, Roy also called the librarian a “liar” who observed him at the computer and asked him to leave. Additionally, Roy could not provide the material he downloaded when asked by investigators.

“I feel that to be the bigger issue than any of the other concerns that were raised,” Weiss said.