Santa Fe city clerk up for one-year contract extension

Santa Fe City Clerk Yolanda Vigil reads election results last year at City Hall. New Mexican file photo

Correction appended.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber has proposed a one-year contract extension for longtime City Clerk Yolanda Vigil, a move that foreshadows a possible “dramatic” transformation of the clerk’s duties and the way city elections are managed, the mayor said.

Vigil would see a 2 percent increase in salary with the new contract — from $98,467, according to the city's human resources department, to $100,500. The term, according to the proposed contract, would expire next June. The City Council is scheduled to consider the deal Wednesday night.

Vigil, who retired as clerk in 2005 and returned in the same role months later, also receives $6,091 in monthly retirement benefits, according to the state Public Employees Retirement Association. (The state Legislature in 2010 put the kibosh on the so-called “double-dipping” practice of government employees returning to work after beginning to receive retirement benefits.)

Vigil came under scrutiny after the March election, the city’s first to use a ranked-choice voting format, when results didn’t come in until just before midnight. City officials said afterward the delay had been caused by one outstanding voting center, where the ballot card, which was needed to tabulate the election results, could not be delivered to City Hall until the voting center had been closed.

The provisional nature of the clerk’s new contract would stand in contrast to the other top administrative hires Webber has made in recent weeks.

But Webber said he foresees a “fundamental change” in the clerk’s duties over the next year and into the future. The one-year contract will allow both the mayor and Vigil the opportunity to feel it out, he said.

The Local Election Act, intended to streamline the dizzying schedule of local elections in New Mexico, allows cities to opt in to a consolidation election cycle managed by the county clerk. The bill was approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez earlier this year.

In short, if city councilors approve an ordinance opting in to the law, city elections would be removed from the clerk’s portfolio of duties — which otherwise include records preservation, public notices, and liquor license applications and permits — and placed under the purview of the Santa Fe County clerk.

An opt-in also would move city elections, currently held in March, to November, when other regular elections are held. City councilors would have to decide whether to move the 2020 municipal elections up to November 2019 or back to November 2021.

The opt-in would not require a change to the city charter, and thus the approval of city voters, said state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Webber said there was not yet a timeline for a city opt-in but that he viewed the new law as a “good, rational approach.”

“I think it makes sense,” Webber said. “The benefits to the voters, I think, are evident.”

He said the city clerk’s role would thereafter “convert into something much more based on data, digital information, digitizing and modernizing all the information bases of the city government.”

The one-year contract will provide an opportunity for Vigil to test drive the transition to a new role, Webber said.

“She’s eager to prove she can be that kind of a change agent, and she may very well be able to,” he said. “But it’s a big shift in duties. If it works, terrific. If not, well, we ought to be able to say it wasn’t a good fit.”

Asked about the pay raise, Webber said he and City Manager Erik Litzenberg had been reviewing an ongoing compensation-and-classification study of city workers, which is expected to provide direction about pay grades and job titles.

“We’re trying to essentially be fair to people and find a place for them where there’s a small salary increase, an increase with new responsibilities — we’re just trying to be fair as we reflect on the ongoing class-and-comp study with what makes sense for managers,” Webber said.

Vigil began work at the city as a typist in 1980 and became clerk in 1994. With the exception of the five-month retirement in 2005-06, she has been clerk ever since, covering 12 regular municipal elections. She did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Correction: An earlier version of this story miscalculated the city clerk's current salary and thus the degree of the raise she would receive under the new contract. The clerk makes $98,467 in annual salary, not $90,892. 

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