Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

July 11, 2017
Dept. heads share pros and cons of commission

County government study committee also sets more public meetings for July 

The Tooele County Government Study Committee reviewed the results of interviews with county department heads during a meeting Thursday.

At the same meeting, the study committee also announced dates for three more public input meetings.

Members of the study committee interviewed both elected and appointed county department heads to collect information on the pros and cons of the different forms of government that the state allows counties to adopt.

Those forms include the current three-member commission with combined executive and legislative authority resting on all three commissioners. Another form keeps the combined executive and legislative authority, but has an expanded county commission that could include five or seven members.

The two other authorized forms of county government separate executive and legislative authority.

Under the county executive-council form of government, the executive duties are given to an elected county executive while the legislative duties are given to an elected county council. In the council-manager form of government, the legislative body is the elected county council, which appoints a county manager to exercise the executive functions.

If the council-manager form of government is recommended by the study committee, their recommended optional plan of government will provide for the qualifications, time and manner of appointment, term of office, compensation, and removal of the county manager, according to state code.

The study committee can recommend that the county commission or council be elected at-large, by districts, or a combination of at-large and districts.

While reviewing the results of the interviews, the study committee retained the anonymity of the department heads. During the meeting, they released comments made by the department heads without revealing their names.

The department heads said that under the current three-member commission it was both easy and difficult to get things done.

Pros of the current system included comments like:

• “Easier to meet face-to-face and have access to decision makers for making decisions such as approval on bills.”

• “Having one of the three commissioners over your department allows for direct policy discussions. There’s no filter. You have their ears.”

• “It’s nice to call one guy, and he gets another commissioner to get a decision made. Quicker with fewer people.”

Cons of the current system included:

• “Ideas from department heads can get shut down.”

• “Getting on the bad side of two out of three commissioners could cause them to give them budget issues.”

• “Three people have a hard time deciding between themselves. Projects get pushed back a lot.”

• And “Commission can be unresponsive.”

Some department heads favored elections of commission/council members by district with comments like, “Districts would be ideal for representation.”

Others opposed districts, saying, “Districts are a bad idea. Elected officials should represent the entire county, not just a specific part.”

Some department heads liked the idea of a larger council or commission.

One department head commented, “When making decisions, three out five sounds better than two out of three.”

“All a three-member commission needs to do to get a vote on something is sway one person. Or, all three will support something and one backs out for political points, and all behind closed doors,” said another department head.

Some department heads were worried that a larger commission could take too long to pass policy.

“It would take us from three people who can’t make a decision, to seven people who can’t make a decision,” was one comment.

Some department heads were concerned that under a form of government with a single executive — appointed or elected — the executive might not have time to meet with all department heads.

“They [the executive] would need assistants,” said one department head.

When it comes to whether the executive should be elected or appointed, several department heads favored an appointed executive.

“There is no advantage to an elected mayor, but with an executive manager, you might get someone who knows how to run a corporation,” said one department head.

Another department head said, “Mayor is popularity. Executive is about qualifications.”

But not all department heads favored an appointed executive.

One department head said, “Appointed executive ends up being a puppet for the council since that’s where they get their job.”

The study committee will hold a public meeting on July 20 at 7 p.m. at the Coulter House Event Center at Millpond Farms located at 175 SR-138 in Stansbury Park.

Tentative dates have been set for public meetings in Vernon on July 18 and in Rush Valley on July 19. Confirmed dates, times, and locations will be announced, according to Kent Sagers, study committee member.

At the public input meetings, members of the study committee give a brief report on the committee’s progress and then the public is invited to comment on their preferences and concerns about the forms of county government.

In addition to the July 18,19 and 20 public input meetings, the study committee will hold their regular meetings this Thursday and July 27 at the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main Street in Tooele City at 7 p.m. Those meetings include time for public comment.

The public can also send email comments to the study committee at studycommittee@tooeleco.org, according to Richard Mitchell, study committee chairman.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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