San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong has compromised with opponents of his plan to close the clerk-recorder’s North County office, which will now remain open two days a week, rather than shutting down completely.
County administrators recently moved two employees who work for the board of supervisors from the clerk-recorder’s budget to the Office of Administrative Services’ budget. Shortly afterward, Gong announced plans to shutter the North County clerk-recorder’s office, which is located above the Atascadero library, and move those employees to his San Luis Obispo office to cover the loss of the two workers who continue to provide services to the board of supervisors.
While under Gong’s budget, the clerks for the board of supervisors filled in when Clerk-Recorder’s Office 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 Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Gong said.
In response to Gong’s planned closure of the North County office, 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. That led Gong to request additional funding to replace the employees who were transferred to the Administrative Services Office budget.
Gong had asked that the board of supervisor increase his department’s funding if they want him to keep the North County office open. Thus far, Gong has not made a formal request to the board of supervisors for additional funding, and it is unclear if he intends to do so.
On Tuesday, the clerk-recorder’s office announced in a press release that it would scale back the operations of the North County office but make an effort to keep it open two days a week. Starting in June, the North County office will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Gong plans to monitor the amount of customer activity in the office and adjust the schedule as necessary, the news release states. Additionally, the clerk-recorder plans to keep the office open five days a week in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
“After discussion with the SLO County Builders Exchange and other county officials, the best compromise of maintaining a presence in North County while being good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars is to keep the office open for fewer days per week,” Gong said in a statement.
Maintaining the North County office would also prevent added congestion to downtown SLO, Gong said.
An operational review of the clerk-recorder’s department was conducted, and it found the North County office generates 2.2 percent of the department’s overall revenue while accounting for nearly 10 percent of staffing expenditures. Keeping the North County office open daily is not sustainable, Gong said.
During the 2018 election cycle, the 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 CSD seat on the Los Osos ballot. Gong has not said how much staff was spent correcting those errors.
The building in which the North County office is located also houses an office for the county assessor and emergency services. Those two departments planned to remain at the location even if Gong closed the clerk-recorder’s North County office.