Alameda County supervisors will wait another week before appointing a new treasurer-tax collector while the powerful Service Employees International Union Local 1021 decides which of the four candidates to endorse.
The four candidates are former Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, accountant Henry Levy, Castro Valley Unified School District assistant superintendent Dr. Candi Clark, and current assistant county treasurer Gregory Lawson. Another applicant, Thomas Wierzba, did not participate in the interview session and was excluded from consideration. The appointee will serve the remainder of Treasurer-Tax Collector Donald White, who announced his retirement last year, and if they choose, run for the office in June 2018.
After the county supervisors spent nearly two and a half hours interviewing the four candidates, they declined to begin deliberations, which would have likely led to an appointment being made Tuesday morning.
Instead, Gary Jimenez, an executive board member for SEIU Local 1021 and representative from the Alameda Central Labor Council, asked the Board of Supervisors to postpone their selection until their endorsement is made official, possibly late Tuesday. The labor unions interviewed treasurer-tax collector candidates on Monday and could not convene their executive board to make an endorsement in time for Tuesday’s special meeting. [Note: Alameda Labor Council voted to endorse Levy.]
The labor union, which represents the largest number of county employees, and the central labor council should be allowed to weigh-in on the choice, said Supervisor Nate Miley. No other board comments were made and Board President Wilma Chan moved to schedule the appointment to its April 25 meeting.
However, Supervisor Richard Valle, possibly labor’s most loyal supporter on the board, referenced SEIU Local 1021’s endorsement while interviewing Harrison. Valle said he would not make a decision before learning who the union had endorsed.
The influence of SEIU Local 1021 suggests the appointment is between Harrison and Levy, a well-known certified public accountant who has done work on many East Bay political campaigns, serving as treasurer. Levy was Supervisor Miley’s campaign treasurer during the 2016 June primary. Harrison, also a certified public accountant, served during the same election as Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s campaign treasurer. Alameda County counsel deemed neither supervisor has a conflict of interest in choosing the appointment of the next treasurer-tax collector.
Harrison told the board he does not view the treasurer-tax collector position as a stepping stone in government and that his skill set fits well with the job. “This is a place where I can combine my passion for government, my passion for business, and my passion for community service together.”
Harrison owns a Fremont accounting business. If appointed, he plans to work full-time as county treasurer-tax collector and sell the business if elected in 2018 to a full four-year term. Levy recently sold his interests in his accounting firm, which he started in 1988. “It’s a good time for me to think about this,” said Levy.
Whereas, Harrison has received SEIU endorsements in the past as a Fremont councilmember and mayor his politics run somewhat moderate, a fact not unknown to the union and central labor council. Levy, on the other hand, has a background steeped in labor activism. Before becoming an accountant, Levy was a machinist and served as a shop steward for his union.
Levy told the board that he believes fervent opposition to public employee pensions is "completely overblown and I think it’s politically-motivated.” Levy added he would use the authority of the treasurer-tax collector’s office to be an activist and educate the public on the issue of unfunded liabilities.
Both Harrison and Levy suggested the county’s rate of return on investments could be improved. “There’s more we can do,” said Harrison, although he added, the need to look at benchmarks in other counties before making a further determination. Levy agreed, he said, after seeking information at the county's rate of return from other locales. “There’s a feeling out there that Alameda County is lower than other counties,” said Levy.