Although the Imperial County Clerk-Recorder’s office will honor its commitment to officiate several civil-marriage ceremonies scheduled through November, the department is no longer scheduling any new ceremony requests due to staffing levels and budgetary constraints.
“A person retired Aug. 1. … I just don’t have the staffing to cover all the duties (of the clerk-recorder’s office) and do marriage ceremonies,” Clerk-Recorder Chuck Storey said during an interview on Sept. 5.
Storey said he has 12 employees and being down just one position has taken a significant toll on his department. He holds an elected position.
“Many days we are doing well over 100 recordings a day,” Storey said, adding his staff takes fictitious-business-license filings and records important documents such as marriage, birth and death records.
A planned retirement, Storey had requested the office clerk position he now has open be filled back in June, but the position was left vacant and unfunded for fiscal 2018-19 as a cost-cutting measure for the cash-strapped county general fund, said Mayra Widmann, deputy county executive officer for budget-fiscal affairs.
In May the county instituted a hiring freeze on all departments paid for through the general fund, of which the Clerk-Recorder’s Department is one.
After requesting the position be filled this budget year, Storey said he was informed last week that his request has been denied by the Human Resources Department, the budget finance committee and County Chief Executive Officer Tony Rouhotas Jr.
Storey said he plans to appeal the denials directly to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 10 during scheduled budget hearings. He said he is on the agenda.
A civil-marriage ceremony itself can take a staff member just around five minutes, but Storey said setting up and ushering family members and friends in and out of the office after the ceremony can take one of his staffers out of rotation for up to a half hour a day. He added that the department had been able to do as many six civil-marriage ceremonies daily by rotating employees between the county clerk’s office and recording side of the office.
Storey has said in the past six or seven years he has had one of the few general-fund departments that pays for itself through recording fees and other revenue. Now he said he has been told something different, that his department is costing the county money.
When asked about specifics, Storey said he would speak in greater detail after his appeal to the board.
Widmann said during a Sept. 5 interview the position Storey wants to fill is for a clerical worker, which she said is considered a nonessential position that has been frozen. The only positions being considered for funding are public-safety positions.
Widmann explained that according to the proposed fiscal 2019-20 budget now under consideration, the Clerk-Recorder’s office is projected to cost the general fund about $164,000 more than the department is projected to make in revenue. She said the department is projected to generate about $828,000 but cost $991,825.
The hiring freeze put in place in May is part of a three-year deficit mitigation plan to cut costs. By law, the county Board of Supervisors has until Oct. 3 to approve the fiscal 2019-20 budget.