Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher has been in office 30 years. Challenger Lauren Colas says its time for a change and that her 25 years of business experience makes her a formidable opponent for the longtime incumbent.
During an Oct. 6 joint interview with The Columbians editorial board, Colas criticized Lasher for what she said was poor investment performance.
The treasurers office collects property taxes and assorted revenues from county departments and taxing districts.
It manages the cash, and determines if there are sufficient funds for the issuance of warrants, the equivalent of checks, so those agencies can pay their bills. The office also administers short- and long-term debt financing for the county and taxing districts.
The value of the countys investment pool varies depending the time of year, Lasher said, but its worth approximately $500 million.
Colas said it has averaged a 0.383 percent return.
You can walk into a bank with a $100 bill and open a savings account and get a higher rate of return, Colas said.
The county pool outperformed the state pool, she acknowledged, but thats pretty abysmal, too.
In addition to saying managing a multimillion-dollar investment pool cant be compared to shopping around for the best interest rates for a personal savings account, Lasher said the county runs a very conservative investment pool, prioritizing safety and liquidity over return on investment.
That is what our policy is, and thats what our taxing districts want, he said. They want to make sure when they need to make a payment, they are going to be able to get their dollars out.
A third-party investment adviser reviews the countys investments, said Lasher.
The countys finance committee -- consisting of the county treasurer, county auditor and chairman of the board of county commissioners -- sets the policy.
Colas also criticized Lasher for a weekend-long crash of the countys online Property Information Center in late April, when first-half property taxes were due.
The online system lets people look up all publicly available information about properties countywide. While both of the countys third-party payment vendors were able to accept money, people were unable to first look up their account number on the Property Information Center.
Lasher said the crash, while unfortunate, was out of his hands. The countys GIS department manages the online system, and Lasher said he had asked if it would be possible to have employees monitoring the server after business hours or over the weekend, when he knew people would be using the system in order to pay their property taxes, but was told that wasnt an option.
Colas said she would have been able to work out a solution with the GIS department.
Lasher was appointed in 1984 by county commissioners following the midterm resignation of the county treasurer. He beat an opponent that year to keep the position, and didnt receive another opponent until 2010, when he was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote.
He said he still has goals hed like to accomplish, including installing a point-of-sale system to allow for a true one-stop transaction system, and said voters should return him to office for his knowledge of property tax collection laws and treasury management.
Colas, who serves as a Republican precinct committee officer, has a masters degree in business administration from the University of Washington. She spent 23 years in Alaska before moving to Washington nine years ago, and has worked at public accounting firms as well as smaller, private businesses.
The treasurer oversees a two-year budget of $4.6 million, according to budget manager Bob Stevens.
The office has 25.75 full-time equivalent positions, including the treasurer.
The treasurer earns $100,920 annually, the same salary as the county auditor, assessor and clerk.