Among those questions were: Can you tell us what the functions are of San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk? Why is it an elected rather than appointed office?
Harp’s response was lengthy, in large part due to the nature and importance of the office. The San Bernardino County Assessor’s Office has been the subject of both ridicule and criminal probe due to the actions of those holding the office in the past.
After years of embarrassing headlines for the county, four years ago voters elected Dennis Draeger to the office. Draeger was an employee, not a politician, and under his leadership he brought back stability to the office of one of the county’s most important elected position.
Today, Harp, also a long-term employee of the department, is running to replace the retiring Draeger. He is opposed by the candidate of choice of all five members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, former State Assemblyman and State Senator Robert Dutton.
Because of the importance of the office and the history of the office in San Bernardino County, Harp’s responses to the first two questions are being provided separately from the rest of the interview. His remaining responses will be published in a few days.
Here is what Harp said about the functions of the office.
“Article 11 Section 4 of the California Constitution requires that County Charters shall provide for an elected Assessor.
“In January 2011 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors consolidated the Office of the Assessor with the Recorder and County Clerk’s Office to create what is now known as the Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk’s Office. An additional responsibility given to the Assessor as a result of the consolidation is that as the County Archivist.
“The legal responsibilities of the County Assessor requires him each year to discover, list, and value all taxable property in his jurisdiction which is the county of San Bernardino. As of January 1st (lien date) the Assessor determines the ownership of all taxable properties, identifies the mailing address of the owner, establishes the taxable value of the property and applies any exemption to the taxable property.
“All of this information is compiled into what is known as the annual assessment roll which is comprised of the secured roll (real property) and unsecured roll which primarily includes business personal property, boats, and aircraft. On July 1st the Assessor certifies this annual assessment roll and passes it on to the San Bernardino County Auditor for the next step in the process which ultimately produces a property tax bill.
“The 2013 annual assessment roll value for San Bernardino County was $167.5 billion. The Assessor also produces what is known as the supplemental assessment roll. The supplemental roll is produced 3 times a year; January, May, and August and the Assessor certifies the supplemental roll and passes it on the Auditor.
“A supplemental assessment occurs only when real property is reappraised due to a change in ownership or is reappraised due to completion of new construction. The supplemental assessment reflects the difference between the new assessed value and the prior assessed value of the property.
“The legal responsibilities of the County Recorder consist of recording and safeguarding of any document that is authorized or required by statute, court order, or local ordinance to be recorded. For calendar year 2013, the Recorder’s Office recorded 556,000 documents.
“The Recorder’s Office is essentially a library so it is very important that the documents are indexed in a manner so that they can be easily retrieved and that the documents are imaged and stored in such a manner that they can be readily reproduced and provided upon request. It is beneficial for the Assessor to be also the Recorder since he relies heavily on recorded documents to fulfill his mandated duty of determining ownership of taxable property.
“Another responsibility of the Recorder is to maintain and issue certified copies of all vital records including birth, death, and marriage records that occurred in San Bernardino County.
“The legal responsibility of the County Clerk is the filing, registering, and issuing of; marriage licenses, fictitious business names, process servers, unlawful detainer assistants, legal document assistants, and professional photocopiers. Notary Publics must file an oath of office and file a surety bond with the County Clerk.
“The County Clerk is also the Commissioner of Civil Marriages and he has deputized selected staff as deputy commissioners of civil marriages who perform civil marriages. Several weeks ago on Valentine’s Day, County Clerk staff performed 118 civil marriages. I personally performed 29 marriages that day.
“As the County Archivist, the Assessor identifies, collects, preserves, maintains, and makes available records and historical materials relating to the County of San Bernardino. Archives has records dating back to 1853, the year San Bernardino County was formed.”
Voters should ask themselves why the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors would have a preference as to whom is elected as Assessor. Consider what the functions of the office are and then decide if you want someone independent or approved by the Board of Supervisors.
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