Madera County’s ongoing challenges with finding an Auditor-Controller to serve a complete term continue, as the current office holder, Marcia Hall, faces the choice of moving into the County or losing a job that she isn’t currently eligible to hold. Holding an elected county office, whether by virtue of appointment or vote, requires legal residency in the county. Ms. Hall lives in Merced.
If Ms. Hall is forced from office, she will be the third Auditor-Controller to resign in the last four years. Ms. Hall was appointed Auditor-Controller in December of 2011, despite not living in the County.
Ms. Hall was one of four people interviewed for an interim appointment as Auditor Controller in 2011, following the resignation of Janet Kroeger, who was appointed in 2009 and was subsequently elected in 2010. She left after being denied her request for an assistant to help her office during an upcoming budget season.
Originally, six candidates were identified for interviews; two withdrew their applications before their interview. The remaining four were interviewed at a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors on December 19, 2011. Three of the four were Madera County residents; Ms. Hall was not.
The Board voted 3-2 to appoint Ms. Hall to her position and made the appointment contingent upon her passing background checks. Nothing appeared to address residency at that time.
According to reports, Ms. Hall was instructed she would need to establish herself as a Madera County resident before her first election in June of 2014.
She and her husband are in the process of looking for a new residence in the County.
At the next Supervisor meeting, in January 2012, the Board acted on advice from legal counsel and waived the residency requirement. That motion passed 4-0.
However, subsequent legal counsel offered a different view of the law, instructing the Supervisors that the residency requirement for elected officers and appointed replacements could not be waived and must be immediately enforced.
In other words, before Ms. Hall could have been appointed, she must have already lived in the County. Under that interpretation, the County has been operating without a duly appointed Auditor-Controller for two years.
The office of Auditor-Controller has been in flux for the last four years. In 2009, the last, long-term Auditor-Controller retired from his office while facing 21 counts of misconduct over his 22 years in office. Since then, the County has had at least three Auditors.
In 2009, against the backdrop of growing distrust and dissatisfaction with the Auditor, the County interviewed for his replacement. The field was narrowed down to three candidates, and the County’s first choice turned-down the job. In a letter sent on November 30, 2009, Mr. Byron Karow cited a number of reasons he was respectfully turning down the County’s job offer.
“I would need to establish a residence in Madera which means I would need to sell my residence here in Marin, and almost immediate which would be impossible in this housing market,” writes Mr. Karow.
Similar concerns were not raised with Ms. Hall’s appointment.
The Madera County website includes a draft agenda for the February 5 Board of Supervisors meeting. The agenda does not include any discussion of Ms. Hall, her residency, or the future of the County’s Auditor-Controller.