Election 2010: Candidate questions opponent’s qualifications | TheUnion.com

Election 2010: Candidate questions opponent’s qualifications

Dai Meagher wants opponent Darlene Woo thrown out of the crowded Nevada County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s race, but Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz has refused to do so, saying she is a legitimate candidate.

In a recent series of letters and e-mails to Diaz’s office, Meagher alleged Woo did not meet the qualifications set out for the office.

Treasurer-Tax Collector candidates can qualify for the position in any of several ways, as set out in California’s election law. Among those is working as a “senior financial management position in a county, city or other public agency dealing with similar financial responsibilities for a continuous period of not less than three years, including but not limited to treasurer, tax collector, auditor, auditor-controller or the chief deputy or an assistant in those offices.”

Woo, who formerly was vice president of business planning for retail operations at Bank of America in San Francisco, now works as an administrative services officer in the county Probation Department.

“My job encompasses all the finances of the department, and I manage all the financial and administrative staff; there are 13 of them,” Woo said Tuesday. “I also do all of the budgeting.”

She has been in the position for three and a half years, Woo said.

Meagher contended Woo’s position at the Probation Department does not qualify her for the elected office, saying the role is not that of a senior financial manager.

“I don’t think an administrative services officer meets the requirements, so I think some level of investigation is needed,” Meagher said. “There’s no way she’s done treasurer or auditor-controller office-type work. Just because you’re working on a budget doesn’t mean you’ve done similar duties.”

Meagher qualifies to run because he is a certified public accountant, one of the options for candidates set out in state law.

Diaz disagreed with Meagher’s assessment of Woo.

“In her department, she is the senior finance manager,” Diaz said. “An administrative services officer is senior, in my opinion and according to our research.”

And with more than three years of directing the Probation Department’s finances, “she’s passed that test,” Diaz said.

“Opposing candidates can interpret provisions to not allow an opponent to run. I’m the opposite,” Diaz said. “I interpret on the side of letting people run. I’m not here to deny people the right to run.”

The county elections chief said Woo’s qualification documents were scrutinized right after she filed for office, which the Elections Office does for all candidates.

“Our decision was made on her before I got information from Mr. Meagher,” Diaz said.

Woo said she couldn’t understand Meagher’s objections.

“I’m wondering why he’s so concerned,” Woo said. “If the issue is he has a fear I would be an incompetent Treasurer-Tax Collector, well, I can’t allay his fears.

“All I can do is put forth my credentials and say I have accomplished these things in the past,” Woo said. “I’m grateful the Elections Office found me qualified to run.

Meagher continued to disagree with Diaz’s decision – and hinted at further action.

“Just because (Woo) says she’s financial officer of the Probation Department, where are the details?” Meagher said.

As to Diaz, “He has no financial acumen – how does he know what senior financial management is?” Meagher asked. “The next step is the Secretary of State (who watches over California elections) or the DA.”

Diaz has faced challenges from candidates in two other races.

Barry Pruett, who is running against Diaz for Clerk-Recorder, was upset when Deputy Clerk-Recorder Gail Smith rejected portions of Pruett’s candidate statement published in voter information pamphlets.

Recently, Diaz rejected the candidacy of Eric Hoefler for county Superintendent of Schools because he did not have a school leadership credential when filing for candidacy, as required by state law.

Hoefler said his coursework toward the credential, a letter of confirmation from a college official and plans to graduate from the college program before the winner would be sworn in, should qualify him as a candidate.

But Hoefler’s intentions were not enough to establish the qualifications needed, County Counsel Mike Jamison determined, according to Diaz.

Meagher said he was not trying to create another political ruckus for Diaz.

“It’s not a political thing. I put a lot of effort into these letters,” Meagher said.

Meagher did not name the other two candidates in his allegations. They are county Administrative Office Analyst Tina Vernon and Realtor Rick Nolle.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4237.

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