The Carson City Council voted on Tuesday, June 25 to immediately discontinue the passport services offered by the city, and effectively eliminate two positions in the city clerk’s office. Residents must now rely on Cal State Dominguez Hills as the only entity within the City to offer passport services.
Councilman Jawane Hilton was the lone council member at the 15-minute special meeting who voted to not only try and save the program, but to continue it indefinitely for the community. Mayor Pro Tem Cedrick Hicks abstained, and Mayor Albert Robles was absent, so the elimination passed 2-1, with one abstention.
City Clerk Donesia Gause-Aldana has spoken at several council meetings against the resolution to eliminate the passport services, urging the council to continue to offer this valuable resource to the community. “The [Full Time Employee] is definitely required, we have taken on new duties related to the Charter and to maintain my statutory duties to the city, I humbly ask that position be maintained,” Gause stated at the Council’s final Budget Hearing June 18.
Councilmember Hilton made a motion, seconded by Mayor Robles, to maintain some funding to the Clerk’s office, but the motion was superseded by a motion from Lula Davis Holmes, who said the Clerk could return in six months to make a request for more staffing. Davis’ motion passed.
The City Clerk has noted the importance of the work these two employees were doing, not just in the capacity of the passport services but in aiding the already overworked staff in the clerk’s office. The City Clerk’s office serves as the main transport for information the community receives from City Hall. Limiting the resources of the office hinders the ability of staff to fully provide the public with adequate information in a reasonable amount of time.
Special Meetings are Legal, but are They Ethical?
The vote to remove the passport services has sparked questions from the public regarding the purpose of such a move. It is especially worrisome to see a council eliminate two full time positions just months after approving a $50,000 annual increase for themselves.
What’s causing further suspicions is the fact that the motion passed during a special council meeting. The June 25 meeting was the 16th “special” council meeting this year. The city held an additional special meeting a month later, bringing the grand total to 17 so far, and the year isn’t even over yet. As CAT has previously noted, holding special city council meetings, especially with such short notice, hinders the ability of the public to properly engage with the council on important issues.
Although holding special council meetings is completely legal, they’re traditionally only held when there’s an urgent issue the council must address immediately. But during the last 17 special council meetings, there doesn’t seem to be much urgency in the issues being addressed.