By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder Tommy Gong plans to close the North County office, which is located above the Atascadero Library, unless the Board of Supervisors increases his funding, Gong said.
County administrators recently moved two employees who work for the board of supervisors from the clerk recorder’s budget to the Office of Administration Services’ budget. Shortly afterwards, Gong announced plans to shutter the North County clerk’s office on May 3, and move those employees to his San Luis Obispo office to cover the loss of the two employees who continue to provide service to the Board of Supervisors.
While under Gong’s budget, the clerks for the Board of Supervisors filled in when the Office of Clerk-Recorder’s employees were out sick and also assisted in various election duties, but primarily worked for the county supervisors. Only 10 percent of their time was spent working for the Office of the Clerk-Recorder, Gong said.
In response to the proposed closure, the SLO County Builders Exchange circulated a flier asking members to petition SLO County supervisors Debbie Arnold and John Peschong for assistance in keeping the office open at least several days a week, which led Gong to request additional funding to replace the employees who were transferred to the Administrative Service’s Office budget.
In response to public criticism, Gong is now considering a partial closure of North County services, but only if the Board of Supervisors votes to increase his budget.
“Additional needs coming from election-related requirements have necessitated having more staff dedicated to voter registration and election activities throughout the year to meet statutory requirements instead of only during the election cycle,” Gong said.
Passed in 2016, the California Voter’s Choice Act requires election officials to accept ballots from other jurisdictions and forward them to the correct agency within eight days. In addition, clerks are now required to allow eligible voters to register and vote 14 days prior to an election through election day.
During the 2018 election, the SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s Office made multiple errors which required additional staff time to correct, including sending two ballots to some voters in Templeton, sending incorrect ballots to two precincts in Arroyo Grande, and incorrectly including a two-year-seat on the Los Osos ballot.
Gong did not respond to a request regarding the amount of time his staff spent correcting those errors.
Even if Gong closes the North County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, the building will continue to serve as an office for the county assessor and emergency services.