10:00 PM PST on Thursday, November 25, 2010

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

A majority of Riverside County supervisors favor opening the recruitment for a new registrar of voters to applicants from outside the county with the hope of attracting an experienced candidate.

“We are looking for a free agent who wants the challenge of this job,” board Chairman Marion Ashley said.

Although the decision is up to the county executive officer, supervisors are weighing in on the type of person they would like to see as their new elections chief.

County Executive Officer Bill Luna fired Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore on Nov. 9 in the wake of renewed criticism of a slow vote count.

Dunmore had been the top election official since 2004 and before that served 14 years in county administration, the last two as a deputy county executive officer.

She had been under fire for months since a slow vote count in June led to calls for her resignation. The Nov. 2 election also saw a delay in the posting of results on the registrar’s website. A week later, after Dunmore faced sharp criticism from supervisors during a public meeting, the county dismissed her.

The county named Rebecca Spencer, the chief deputy, as acting registrar to oversee day-to-day operations and certify the Nov. 2 election but has yet to set a deadline for finding a permanent replacement.

Spencer declined to comment on whether she is interested in applying for the registrar’s position.

Ashley said he would want a new registrar in place before municipal elections in June. Those include the Riverside City Council — four of seven council seats are up for election in June and, if needed, a November runoff.

Ashley said he would hope the county could recruit an existing registrar or chief deputy from outside the county but preferably from Southern California.

“Our best bet is to go with experience,” Ashley said.

Supervisor John Benoit said Spencer will do a fine job finishing the current vote count. But he said he also favors an outside recruitment process.

“Clearly, we want someone with experience, someone with a high level of competence,” he said. “We can’t find someone who is going to learn on the job.”

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