On June 8, more than 570 people cast a ballot in favor of electing Michael Sebastian to the role of city treasurer. The votes were largely symbolic since Sebastian, who was running unopposed in the race, was more than a shoo-in.
Normally, a sweeping victory would be cause for celebration. But at the same election, Measure G passed with a simple majority of votes — 389 in favor to 323 opposed — making all 579 ballots cast for Sebastian entirely worthless.
Measure G transformed the positions of city treasurer and city clerk into appointed positions. Before the measure took effect, voters chose between candidates running for both positions. Going forward, the city council — and, to a lesser extent, the city manager — will now get to decide who fills those spots.
The criteria for who gets to fill those vacancies also changes. In the past, candidates for the treasurer and clerk positions had to be residents of the city that they were seeking to serve. But as an appointed position, city officials can choose someone who qualifies on the merits of their background and education, and that chosen person can live and work in two different places.
“A ballot initiative technically goes into effect on the day of the election,” Winters City Attorney Ethan Walsh said in an e-mail to the Express on Monday. “An elected official does not assume office until the election results are certified.”
In other words, if voters had rejected Measure G, Sebastian would have assumed the position of city treasurer after the results of the election had been certified by the Yolo County Clerk’s Office. But with Measure G’s passage, it doesn’t matter who voters chose in the election because the initiative goes into effect retroactively — Sebastian will have to wait and see if the city council chooses him over someone else for the role.
Measure G also impacts the city clerk’s position. The measure was proposed last year when current city clerk, Nanci Mills, indicated her intention to retire. In an e-mail on Tuesday, City Manager John Donlevy said Measure G adequately reflects evolving city needs, eliminating “conflicts within the Municipal Code and it has a lot to do with the reality of how things operate within the financial structure of the city.”
“I discussed the City Clerk and Treasurer appointment measure with Mike Sebastian after a Rotary Meeting on either January 4 or 11, which [was] before the January 16 meeting where the City Council approved the election consolidation resolution and everything was put on the ballot,” Donlevy said. “The change of elected to appointed position has become common. In California, the majority of cities have appointed City Clerks and Treasurers.”
Now, Winters does too – at least for now. As of Tuesday, the county still had 19,000 ballots that had yet to be counted, Yolo County Clerk Jesse Salinas told the Express. Salinas did not have a specific number as to how many of those ballots came from Winters voters, but said certified results of the election could be provided as early as next week.
“After we get the certification, we need to determine exactly what [the treasurer] role will mean and what they would do,” Donlevy said. “The Treasurer role had evolved into that of an emergency check signer and I sent a note to Mike telling him we would be happy if he would keep that role if he is interested. We have appreciated Mike’s help through the years and like him being engaged and available to help the team.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story that ran in Thursday’s newspaper truncated a quote attributed to Donlevy. After publication, Donlevy reached out to clarify that the quote, as printed, could be misinterpreted to suggest the city would keep Sebastian on as Treasurer. For additional context, Donlevy’s full quote is included in the online version of this story above.