Antioch Council appoints former Mayor Jim Davis as interim City Treasurer

Council Members wanted someone who could “hit the ground running”

New, interim Antioch City Treasurer Jim Davis. Herald file photo.

By Allen Payton

During a special session of the City Council before their regular meeting on Tuesday night September 11, 2018, on a unanimous 4-0, the Antioch Council appointed former Antioch Mayor Jim Davis as the interim City Treasurer through 2020. Davis will fill the position left vacant by Donna Conley who stepped down when she and her husband Jim moved out of state in July. Council Member Lori Ogorchock was out of town at a city-related conference.

Davis is also running for the Antioch School Board which was a concern by some of the council members. He was one of three Antioch residents applied for the position, each of whom spoke before the council, offering their background and credentials, in the order of the numbers they drew. As each applicant spoke, the others remained outside of the council chambers.

City of Antioch employee Shelley Richardson was the first applicant to speak to the council.

“I have never done this, before. I’m not political,” she said. “It’s not because I’m bored. I am a city of Antioch employee. A payroll specialist since January 2017. Prior to that she was a payroll specialist for the East Bay Regional Park District. Before that she worked for Cypress Meadows senior living community in Antioch.

Former Antioch Mayor Jim Davis was next, saying, “I’ve been up there for 14 years in three different seats, as Mayor Pro Tem, as Council Member, and the last four as Mayor. I spent many personal hours and vacation time away from my day job to lobby for money for this city. I worked with Federal Advocates, our lobbyists, in Washington D.C. for funds for Highway 4 and eBART. I’m a 60-year resident of Antioch. I’m semi-retired. I don’t commute, and I have the time to donate to this position. I have the knowledge and experience to fulfill this position.” He spoke of his 30-year banking background and the various financial transactions he handled as part of his experience for the position. “I can start tomorrow morning…I have nothing going on,” he stated.

Former downtown business owner Kym Kelley was the third and final applicant to speak to the council.

“I’m a 14-year resident and homeowner of Antioch, active in my church…and a former business owner in downtown Antioch,” she stated. “I’d now like to continue to serve my city…and become active in my community. I believe with my financial background and knowledge I will be a good candidate to fill this seat. In my career I’ve managed up to $300 million in assets…in the banking and loan industry. I feel I’m offering a bright, new perspective for the city and this position.”

“I’m not a politician,” Kelley concluded with a chuckle.

The council members then had the opportunity to ask questions of each of the applicants.

Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe asked Richardson if she saw the position as having an oversight role.

She said she wanted to be a team player, but that she didn’t know. “I know what the position requires. I want to do that.”

Council Member Monica Wilson asked Richards, “is it legal for you to have both of these roles (of city employee and City Treasurer)?”

“Is it a conflict of interest? I’ve called Cal-PERS. It’s actually two different positions, Richardson responded. I’ve looked at every different avenue. The Treasurer cannot sign the checks. That would have to change. (City Finance Director) Dawn Merchant would have to sign the checks. It’s a completely separate position.

City Attorney Derek Cole interjected his thoughts. “I believe the candidate is correct there are some internal control issues. There are some changes that have to be made. Other than that, there are no legal issues. The candidate is an employee. She’s not holding two elected positions. There is not a conflict of interest if she’s selected.”

Council Member Tony Tiscareno said he concern with “a public perception issue.”

Thorpe asked the same question of Davis regarding his view of the oversight role of the position.

Davis mentioned Measure C and the upcoming Measure W and the need for oversight.

Thorpe, “I think the City Treasurer does have oversight. He is the overseer of revenue…on behalf of the public, not of city staff.”

Davis responded to Thorpe’s question about the role, saying, “Report out at a council meeting or to the public. It is incumbent upon the person who holds this position, now to be more active.”

“I think the person in this position…needs to be in the public eye and not sit behind a desk and come to the council meeting every three months…so the public can confront you, good or bad,” Davis added. “I would be involved. I won’t be a silent treasurer by any means.”

Thorpe, “One of the things that I’ve grown frustrated with the City Clerk’s office, I don’t like how they engineer certain things for certain results. I would hope the City Treasurer wouldn’t do that.”

Wilson asked about the fact Davis is also running for the Antioch School Board. “That would be two elected positions.”

Davis responded, “It’s two separate entities. Two separate elected bodies. It’s a part-time position as City Treasurer. It’s the same on the school board. I’m semi-retired. I have the time. If there was a conflict of interest on either body I would recuse myself.  They are two separate, two years apart elections. I’m very comfortable I can do both.”

Cole offered his views on the issue, stating, “There is…a problem with incompatible offices. If it is found a person occupies incompatible offices, they would have to resign one of the positions. It is rare that the City cuts a check to the school district. So, we couldn’t see any conflict between the school district and this position.”

Davis said, “The Treasurer position has no vote.”

Tiscareno said “I truly believe you have some good qualifications being in the banking business, overseeing your customer’s money. That expertise is important to me. But, I have the same concern…that you’re running for school board. You somewhat addressed that, and I’m satisfied with your answers.”

“We had a very good treasurer, but she wasn’t as active as I would have like to see,” he stated.

“What would you do differently to make this position more transparent and visible to the community?” Tiscareno asked.

“I would be at every council meeting, sitting in the back,” Davis responded. “I’ll give monthly report of whatever I’m doing. Participate in community events. Speak at non-profit organizations. Attend training…become an active member. It wouldn’t be a simple, 9-5 one day a week. You would see me involved and participating.”

The council members then asked questions of Kelley.

Thorpe asked her the same question he asked the others about the oversight role of the position and her vision for it.

“Basically, from the research and the phone calls that I’ve made I feel like this position basically oversees that everything is in compliance…and to reconcile the books,” she responded. “This position…does not report to anyone directly, but you work with others.”

“Are you familiar with the Measure C Oversight Committee?” Thorpe asked.

“Not as familiar as you are,” she replied.

“OK. We’ll skip that” he said.

Wilson asked how Kelley could translate her background and experience into the position.

Kelley mentioned her advocacy on behalf of her father during his final days, and oversight and making sure no one is

Tiscareno asked “can you give me a little insight in how you can do a smooth transition into this position?”

“I’ve already read the budget and looked into the travel policy…to get prepared for the position,” she responded.

Mayor Sean Wright said all the questions he had for each applicant had already been asked.

One member of the public offered a written comment in support of Richardson, which Wright read.

The council then discussed and deliberated on the item.

Thorpe said, “I only have two concerns, the first one is, the idea of serving, if former Mayor Davis gets elected to the school board, him serving in both capacities. I don’t think that looks good. The same concern is with Shelley who works for the city. I understand the legalese. We have to be concerned with perception. I think all the candidates bring good qualities.”

Tiscareno shared his thoughts, stating, “I do share those concerns, as well. One may be more conflicted as the other, because one is a city employee. It would be difficult to present that to the public when running for election. Mr. Davis has the right to run. But, my reasoning for looking at a specific candidate is someone who can come in and do the job, have the knowledge of our city. Kym is very qualified, as well. Her answers to questions as she prepared to the job at hand. I’m going to make my decision with an individual who can start from day one and get going. I think you kind of know where I’m going with that.”

Wilson stated, “I do have the same concern with Shelley…the public perception. This is an oversight role. Will she be overseeing for the city or for the public? Kym, I really think you gave some good answers and we need someone to hit the ground running. Mayor Davis, you have some good answers, too. So, I’ve pretty much made up my mind, too.”

Mayor Wright ended the discussion by stating, “We have the opportunity to have an appointee who can hit the ground running with an applicant who has looked at our finances during our city’s darkest times.”

Tiscareno moved to appoint Davis as City Treasurer, seconded by Wilson.

Thorpe said, while I will support the pleasure of the council, I would hope, Jim you would rethink the school board thing, because I don’t think it looks good that people are serving in two separate offices or that we’re recycling the same people.”

“This was not a foregone conclusion, all of you have certificates that were prepared to be signed,” Wright assured the other two applicants.

Davis was then given the oath of office by Mayor Wright and he assumed his new role as the Antioch City Treasurer.

Davis then signed the official proclamation and the council and audience offered their applause.

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