Our latest Interim Deputy City Clerk, Laura Seo, has settled in well with the Katzenjammers at city hall.

On July 26 I paid a visit to the Fillmore City Clerk’s office. I wondered why official notice had not gone out to tell potential candidates for city council, city clerk, and city treasurer that they had only until August 15 to pull papers, secure signatures, and file in order to qualify for the November ballot.

The Gazette had received nothing from the clerk’s office. Nothing was posted on the official notice area of the City Park kiosk. Nothing was posted anywhere downstairs at city hall, and I could find nothing in the Ventura Star. Two weeks delay in notifying the residents of Fillmore significantly shortened preparation time for potential candidates.

Ms. Seo greeted me in the upstairs lobby at city hall near the clerk’s office. Asked why notice had not been sent to the Gazette she recoiled defensively and gestured to a corner of a table, stating that this was the notice.

I asked if she thought that single document was adequate notice to the residents of Fillmore. She assured me that it was, and that adequate notice could have been posted to the clerk’s office wall. She also told me that notice had been sent to the Star. I told her I could not find it. I informed her that this sort of notice was, as a practical matter, no notice at all. Was she trying to keep it secret?

What is most troubling here was not Ms. Seo’s aggressive-defensive attitude, but the obvious intention of the city clerk, Clay Westling, to keep the notice as quiet as possible. You see, Mr. Westling is also running as incumbent for city clerk, and he had filed and qualified as quickly as possible, two weeks earlier. Maybe he could run unopposed?

Well, when word finally got out that the clerk’s job was open to challenge in November, Nancy A. Blendermann Meyer signed-up after hearing the news. She was notified by word of mouth, not by the official notice lying on the clerk’s table upstairs in city hall.

Here is the statement running at the bottom of written communications coming from the clerk’s office: “The City Clerk is the local official who administers democratic processes such as elections, access to city records, and all legislative actions ensuring transparency to the public. The City Clerk acts as a compliance officer for federal, state, and local statutes including the Political Reform Act, the Brown Act, and the Public Records Act. The City Clerk manages public inquiries and relationships and arranges for ceremonial and official functions.

I only wish Clay would exercise the “democratic processes” with more vigor. There is technical notice, and adequate notice. Where elections are concerned adequate notice is demanded. That is both the spirit and letter of the law. But Clay didn’t even make a personal effort to publish the notice, as his answer to my inquiry shows: “I have been told by the County Elections Division that the attached Notice of Election was published in the Ventura County Star, as promised, on 7/16/12. Additionally, this notice is posted here at City Hall.”

Clay Westling, Fillmore City Clerk

Mr. Westling also refused to accept council candidate statements from Douglas Tucker and Manuel “Manny” Minjares unless they deleted harmless statements such as “time to get our city back on track”. He has not responded to my request for any authority he relied upon to make these unlawful demands of the candidates. The perception here is that Clay is protecting his friends and political associates on city council by weakening candidate statements.

As for Ms. Seo, I received this officious email criticizing me for not being able to recall the election code provision pertaining to publishing notices (thought that was the clerk’s job): “...Perhaps Mr. Farrell could do his own research and provide the points and authorities on his own. During our conversation, he could not remember what they were, thus impeding his ability to communicate with me effectively and work toward a solution.”

This, from a temporary, Interim, Deputy, City Clerk – essentially a rent-a-clerk. As I responded, she has drunk deeply of the Katzenjammer Kool aid.

This poor, broke, exhausted, and demoralized city hall is in desperate need of a new, trustworthy city clerk and three fresh, honest council members.

Come November – please!