Many members of the board express discontent with county charges for election costs
PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District will be paying the San Luis Obispo County Office of the Clerk Recorder over $300,000 for costs related to holding the April Special Election. The payment was approved with a 4-3 vote during the Tuesday, Oct. 10, PRJUSD school board meeting.
In May the district received a statement of charges for the special election in the amount of $407,984.49. During the June 13 meeting, trustees directed staff to cancel the purchase order and to collect more detailed information related to the charges for the special election. At that time, staff paid the undisputed 2022 General Election payment of $100,360.31 through Warrant #04371659.
Trustees again declined to pay the invoice at the July 11 meeting after being unsatisfied with the county clerk’s explanation of the charges. But on Sept. 13, the district received a demand for payment from the county in the amount of $307,624.18.
Trustee Dorian Baker opened the discussion at the Tuesday night meeting by explaining she would support paying for temp workers and overtime for staff who worked on the special election. However, she opposed the county charging taxpayers for services.
“I object to paying regular employees for their regular daily wage even though the election may have taken time away from their regular duties,” said Baker, who later added, “Elena Cano and the Board of Supervisors should be ashamed for the way they are treating not only taxpayers but the students of our district.”
Baker noted that Cano had been invited to speak with the district twice and declined each time, and also declined to provide the district with an itemized invoice for the cost of the election. District staff provided a summary of communication with Cano, which can be found at simbli.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/Clerk%20Recorder%20Communication_616956fzbzmyl4xysgqpycs2crep12.pdf
In June, after staff asked for a breakdown of labor costs for the election, Cano responded:
The majority of the work was performed by our elections division and temporary help, though our entire Clerk-Recorder staff worked election night. The work involved candidate filing; ballot/voter information guide layout; securing polling locations, call center staff, and precinct workers for election day; drop box servicing; processing returned vote-by-mail ballots; election night returns; and canvass activities.
There were some weekends and evenings that were spent working on the election, not to mention election day. On election day, some staff arrived at 5 a.m. and didn’t leave until 1 a.m. the following morning.
Here is the breakdown:
Regular pay (including temps): $213,654.18
Overtime pay (including temps): $3,691.53
Total pay: $217,345.71
Baker agreed to pay the overtime pay of $3,691.53 and made a motion to pay only that amount unless a more detailed invoice was provided.
While Trustee Nathan Williams agreed with Baker, he noted he would not support her motion due to feeling not making the full payment would incur even more costs to the district.
Trustee Laurene McCoy supported Baker’s motion, saying it was a “slap in the face” for the county to not supply the detailed invoice and threaten to sue.
Ultimately, the majority of trustees did not support Baker’s motion, which failed 3-4 with Nathan Williams, Jim Cogan, Joel Peterson, and Sondra Williams dissenting.
Trustee Cogan explained his vote against Baker’s motion: “If we fight this, we’re going to go to court, we are going to lose, and the only people who win in that fight is the lawyers, and I’d rather not pay lawyers more money that should be spent on educating students.”
A new motion was made by trustees to pay the full invoice and passed with a 4-3 vote — Kenney Enney, McCoy, and Baker dissenting.
The next Paso Robles Joint Unified School District meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m.