Should O’Fallon, Mo., Keep Its Elected City Treasurer?
There’s an interesting little story over in the Suburban Journals about an upcoming vote to abolish the office of city treasurer in O’Fallon and replace it with an appointed position. The effect would not be that dramatic, because most of the duties of that office were already reallocated during a prior reorganization, but clearly the elected treasurer still has some authority over the city’s funds — and gets paid $11,000 a year while doing the part-time job. So, should voters give all the authority in that position to an appointed city finance officer, who would report to the city manager, who, in turn, is responsible to the mayor and board?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I guess I would recommend keeping the position as it is, if anyone asked me — which nobody (yet) has. However, I think it is a tough call. I have considered this issue in my testimony to charter commissions in Jefferson and Franklin counties. Which positions should be elected, and which appointed? The guidelines I have come up with are that if an official either makes important policy decisions or serves as a check on the power of other officials, that position should probably be elected. If an official simply exercises authority dictated by state or local law, without much discretion and without serving as a check on other officials, that position should probably be appointed. Examples of the former include prosecuting attorney, assessor, auditor, treasurer, and election clerk. Examples of the latter include recorder of deeds, coroner, circuit clerk, and collector of revenue.
So, how does this apply to O’Fallon? Well, as I said, it’s a tough call. The above examples were for counties, not suburbs (even large ones) like O’Fallon. As far as I know, there is only one other city in Missouri with an elected treasurer, and that is because St. Louis ain’t in a county. The city manager system works well for suburbs like O’Fallon, and in cases where it does not work, that has nothing to do with having too few elected officials. But I do like counties and larger cities to have at least one independent fiscal officer, be it an auditor, assessor, or treasurer. So, I think O’Fallon will be just fine with whatever the voters decide. Saving $11,000 a year would be nice, but having an independent elected official managing the money is also good government.
The really big question here is whether or not a minor vote like this on an obscure special election day (Feb. 2) would be enough to convince a certain Show-Me Institute employee who lives in O’Fallon that his vote might actually count enough for him to go and actually cast it.