Incumbent, civic watchdog fight for Oxnard treasurer seat
By Shane Cohn 10/11/2012
Anybody who follows Oxnard politics knows Martin Jones.
For the past two decades, Jones, a candidate for city treasurer, has kept a discerning, caustic eye on city business, speaking almost weekly at council meetings about fixing city government.
After running unsuccessfully three times previously for City Council and treasurer, come Election Day, Jones is hoping Oxnard voters finally give him that shot.
“I would do this job as a policy maker,” said Jones, a small-business owner. “I’m qualified because I understand how it should be done.”
Jones is challenging incumbent Danielle Navas, who defeated him handily four years ago for the position. Navas, who began working for the city in 1998 as the assistant city treasurer, has a 33-year banking background, which she feels makes her the most qualified candidate.
“This is what I love to do, and it would be my honor to serve another four years,” Navas said.
During his campaign, Jones has been vocal about the treasurer salary. Navas, according to public record, earns a total compensation package of a little more than $172,000 a year.
Jones said that salary is egregious and results in rubber-stamping questionable disbursements. If elected, Jones said, he would accept no more than what an Oxnard city councilmember earns, which averages just under $40,000 in total compensation.
“Both the clerk and treasurer are evaluated by the city manager,” explained Jones. “So the city manager evaluates them as department heads. The city manager can take away money if they don’t play ball. If you take the money out of a job, you only have the fiduciary duty to taxpayers.”
Navas defended her position and salary.
“Absolutely, I feel it (salary) is adequate,” said Navas “I am managing a $119 million portfolio. The only input I get is from the chief financial officer and I’m not told what I can and cannot invest in. That is defined in city code. … I look to the public, and the funds I invest are according to code.”
The specific duties of a city treasurer can vary from city to city. As established by state law, the duties must include — in addition to complying with all laws governing the deposit and securing of public funds — issuing only those checks signed by legally designated persons, making a monthly report to the city clerk that accounts for all receipts, disbursements and fund balances, and filing a copy of that report with the City Council.
“I know there have been disbursements without authorization,” claimed Jones, referring to the $300 monthly retirement benefits for that now-suspended City Manager Ed Sotelo illegally created for top city employees.
The supplemental post-retirement benefits began in 2003, five years before Navas was elected. But Jones said Navas should have noticed the illegal perks being issued.
“A treasurer’s duties do not include reviewing all expenses of the city nor approving those expenses. It’s not part of my job or in statutes of the government code,” Navas rebutted.
Navas was recently endorsed by the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce.