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Clerk race gets new face

Niel Locke, who is not seeking re-election to retain his post as Nevada City treasurer, said he plans to throw his hat into the controversial Nevada City clerk race.

“People on the street don’t know who to vote for,” Locke said. “I’ll give them a choice.”

Locke, manager of “The Hat Store” across from Nevada City Hall, said Yolanda Bachtell and longtime incumbent Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, the other two candidates, have turned the race into a “mockery.”



The city clerk position earns $100 per month and is responsible for keeping minutes of council meetings, making records available to the public and elections.

Wilcox-Barnes, the incumbent, also holds a full-time, unelected position as office operations supervisor.




She was placed on paid administrative leave from the office supervisor position on April 25, and has not been allowed to return to her original office since. Ongoing investigations have revealed the city may have lost $200,000 by failing to collect revenue in water, sewer and business license fees, which consultant Bob Austin, a member of the investigative team, has said was the responsibility of the office supervisor.

Some of the duties Wilcox-Barnes seemed to be responsible for could have been performed by Locke or City Manager Mark Miller, said M. Catherine Jones, attorney for Wilcox-Barnes.

The city treasurer is officially charged with submitting a monthly “written report and accounting of all receipts, disbursements, and fund balances,” according to the California Election Code.

Locke said he did not compile those reports because Wilcox-Barnes had “assumed” those duties.

“She took it, and no one stopped it,” Locke said regarding Wilcox-Barnes’ acquisition of responsibilities.

Wilcox-Barnes has said the office supervisor and city clerk position morphed together and city clerk duties cannot be performed on a part-time basis. Miller has said there should be segregation between the two.

Bachtell, who initially said she was running for city clerk because Wilcox-Barnes had a conflict of interest in holding those two positions, came out in support of Wilcox-Barnes after the incumbent was placed on leave from her office supervisor position.

Wilcox-Barnes has since sworn in Bachtell, a local attorney, as a deputy, saying she wanted to maintain the independence of the position. The incumbent also un-deputized an administrative assistant for Nevada City who had been deputy city clerk for around 10 years.

Locke said he must collect 20 signatures by Monday afternoon to qualify as a write-in candidate.

Jones said there may have been an election code violation when City Attorney Jim Anderson initially helped Locke prepare his candidacy papers.

Anderson said he didn’t “think it’s a problem whatsoever,” adding the city clerk has often asked him for help.

George E. Foster, a retired businessman, is running unopposed for Locke’s current position as Nevada City treasurer.

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To reach staff writer Josh Singer, e-mail joshs@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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