PLEASANT HILL -- This city's elected clerk has sent a stream of tweets to her 300-plus followers over the past year, offering her insights on the council meetings she is responsible for recording. What she hasn't done is produce any official minutes of those meetings -- an apparent violation of state law.
Facing public criticism for the first time, Kim Lehmkuhl said Tuesday she has been overwhelmed trying to balance her duties as clerk with her full-time job at a nonprofit agency. But she insisted that she is committed to serving the public.
On Monday, Lehmkuhl submitted complete minutes for seven past meetings.
"I didn't run for this job to be a stenographer; I ran for this job because I do believe in government transparency and I want to make a product that's actually useful," said Lehmkuhl, in her first term in public office. "I'm totally owning that I have not lived up to expectations for the timeliness of the work product."
Council members criticized her failure to produce the minutes.
"It's not good government, it's not open and transparent," Councilman David Durant said before this week's meeting, where building frustration with Lehmkuhl burst into public. "It makes the public's job of staying informed too hard."
City staffers have spent months prodding Lehmkuhl to submit the overdue meeting minutes, according to emails this newspaper obtained through a public records request. In a response to one such inquiry, Lehmkuhl on April 30 wrote, "I won't have any minutes for you this week, I know I owe a million of them and am going to try to drill down on it this weekend and have some for you for the following meeting, but thanks for checking in."
But the next council meeting came and went with no minutes. Without an official written record, council members and residents have to watch video recordings of meetings posted on the city's website if they want to see how the city is being run. That's a time-consuming process.
Councilman and former mayor Michael Harris also spoke to Lehmkuhl about the need for the minutes, and each time she assured him she'd take care of it.
"She's an elected official," Harris said Tuesday. "She doesn't work for the city manager, she doesn't work for the mayor or the City Council and it's a real challenge in a situation like that to have her do the minutes if she doesn't want to do them."
Meanwhile, Lehmkuhl -- in her early 30s -- spends a lot of time on Twitter during council meetings -- which she considers a way to reach Pleasant Hill's younger constituency.
"Guys I'm trying to be better (about) taking proper minutes while tweeting and it's super challenging with this super slooow (sic) computer," read a tweet from the Nov. 18 council meeting.
From the account handle @KimPHClerk, she had sent 1,630 tweets as of Tuesday, ranging from the personal to the political. She follows 1,328 people but only has 344 followers.
Despite the backlog, it was not until December that Mayor Tim Flaherty finally confronted Lehmkuhl about her poor performance. A fed-up Durant then crafted a detailed proposal to get caught up.
Lehmkuhl agreed to update the last year's meeting agendas with the votes taken by the end of this week and continue this practice in the future. City staffers will review the documents and post them on the website.
On Feb. 3, the council plans to consider the costs of having city staffers, a typist or a certified minutes taker produce formal minutes for the last year. Lehmkuhl promises to catch up, spending every Thursday at City Hall to slog through the work required of her city clerk job.
Terry Francke, a longtime advocate of government transparency, has never come across a situation in which a city clerk fails to "keep an accurate record of the proceeding of the legislative body."
"It appears that this mandatory duty could be enforced by an action in Superior Court, and might also be the basis for a taxpayer's suit against the city," Francke wrote in an email.
Lehmkuhl, who works for a voting and civil rights group in Oakland, defeated a real estate agent when elected to a four-year term in November 2012. She earns $7,020 as city clerk and gets $556 toward her retirement benefits.
The council plans to consider a ballot measure similar to one Concord voters approved in 2008, asking if the city clerk should become an appointed office. But that would be after Lehmkuhl's term is up.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.