Validating Petitions: Staff Hours, Costs and Dedication
By Sherry Mashburn, City Secretary
Did coffee and cigarette breaks delay validation of the recent city council recall petitions?
Posters in an online public forum speculated – I hope facetiously – that such activities were a reason the city secretary’s office took 10 working days to complete the validation process. To my knowledge, only one person in our office is a smoker, and we all enjoy our morning coffee while working at our desks.
We recognized throughout the arduous certification process that we had a responsibility not only to the petitioners, but also to the council members and the entire community. Our mission was to make sure the petitions were validated fairly, thoroughly and accurately, and that took time. Recognizing that we are only human and some error does occur, mistakes on our part were simply not an option.
We chose to overlook some minor procedural errors on many of the petitions, but we had to disqualify signatures by those who were not registered voters or legal residents. These decisions were based on established state law, not arbitrary decisions made by city staff. In addition, at no point did any council member or city staffer interfere with our work.
In an interview with a local media outlet midway through the process, I surmised that we’d spent close to 60 man hours validating the petitions. I was way off the mark. When the process was complete, we actually spent more than 231 man hours reviewing and verifying the documents. That didn’t even include the 29 ½ hours we committed to preparing the petitions for circulation, which brings our total time to more than 260 hours. That time translates to a total personnel cost of $4,716.50. Click here for the breakdown.
The five members of our staff each spent an average of 52 hours on the petitions. Keep in mind that this was in addition to performing our regular full-time duties, such as processing open records requests, handling birth and death certificates, coordinating city council meetings and posting our many public meetings. They even dedicated some of their own time on weekends and the MLK holiday to insure the petitions were processed as expeditiously as possible. I’m profoundly grateful and deeply proud of our staff’s genuine work ethic and dedication to serving our community.