To the Editor: Questions cost of election

With respect to discussion on Dec. 4 on the topic of filling the open seat on the Ridgecrest City Council, there was one significant piece of half truth and one of speculation that led the council astray in their perception that night. I would like to bring actual fact to those topics, if I may.

First, City Manager Ron Strand’s statement that a special election would cost $70,000 (and his further statement that Kern Elections said this). Let me give you the full facts on this that I was told in a conversation with Jacqueline St. George, assistant registrar of voters for Kern County. The cost of a special election includes two associated costs. The first is a fixed cost that covers the expense of mailing the voters information brochure to all approximately 14,000 voters in Ridgecrest. This is less than $5,000. The next is the at-cost charge of $5 per vote cast. Only in the case where all 14,000 registered voters in Ridgecrest voted would that be $70,000. That would never happen. We all know that the actual voter turnout will be around 6,000-8,000. That makes the cost $35,000 to $45,000. Does that seem like a little less than $70,000? Some of you need to ask Mr. Strand why he quoted a high cost figure that night. More to say on that later.

Next was the speculation by Ms. Charlon that the county could not support an election just before March because they would be too busy due to the March primary election. Ms. St. George told me plainly that that was not the case, and that Kern Elections would support a special election whenever it was called.

As the claim by Ms. Charlon seemed hard to believe, it is now verified that it was a bad speculation based on no actual fact. This also needs to be addressed. Bad advise to Council can only lead to bad decisions.

If your staff is unable or unwilling to provide accurate information to you, their qualification to hold their current positions needs to be reconsidered. These topics are important, bad or false information given by staff should be viewed as a real problem.

I will offer my view of these inaccurate facts and what seemed to be going on that night. It very much appeared that these two staff member did not want a special election occurring and therefore were willing to slant or misrepresent the truth in order to steer the decision toward an appointment to the seat; that was coupled with the city attorney’s blatant continued pursuit of saying that discussing this appointment in closed session was all right, when it is clearly illegal. I left that night with a degraded trust of the entire staff that advises you from the dais at council meetings.

This needs to change. Like it or not, this will reflect poorly on the entire city leadership. Is that something you want? If not, correctionneeds to occur.

Mike Neel

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In response to Neel’s letter, City Manager Ron Strand forwarded the following e-mail, originally sent from Jackie St. George, assistant registrar of voters with the Kern County Elections Division, to City Clerk Ricca Charlon:

Are your council members elected at large or do you have specific numbered districts? It looks like your seats are elected at large, meaning everyone within the city votes for every seat. In that case, the number of registered voters at this time is 14,939. The estimated cost would be $5 per voter which calculates to $74,695. I would suggest you round it up to $75,000. And please understand this is just an estimate.

Story First Published: 2019-12-20