Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 13, 2018
Gov’t study committee final report incomplete?

Report says current county commission didn’t provide requested information 

While the Tooele County Government Study Committee has submitted its final report for review, the committee still has some unfinished business with the Tooele County Commission, according to that report.

To assess the time commitment and total compensation of the current three-member Tooele County Commission, the study committee had requested information from the commission relating to all boards, committees, and other organizations each commissioner belongs to by virtue of being a county commissioner.

But that information was not provided to the study committee.

“The Study Committee has requested component information necessary to derive total sitting Tooele County Commissioner board, committee, etc., membership, labor hours and compensation levels,” reads the report. “While requests have formally been made of the County Commissioners, as of this publication date, the requests have been made without satisfaction.”

The study committee wanted information on the different boards and committees that the commissioners sit on by virtue of being a county commissioner, including information on the frequency and length of meeting, along with information on any compensation received, according to Richard Mitchell, study committee chairman.

According to the report, the study committee was told to submit and pay for a request for information under the state’s Government Records Access Management Act.

The study committee submitted a GRAMA request, but had not received the information it sought by the time the report was published and submitted to the county on Feb. 2. This matter is specifically noted in the report.

“Unfortunately, actions of this nature tend to disrespect and violate the spirit and intent of Utah Code chapter 17-52, study committee scope of work,” reads the report. “Further, it leaves a sense of a lack of transparency and an inability to manage self-interest within the three-member county commission form of government. Actions of this nature, by not just one member of the county governing body, but the entire governing body, trend to create suspicion. This suspicion is further increased in the face of incomplete county commissioner compensation and labor hours reporting/disclosure for committee, board and authority participation. As well as create the overall appearance of conflict of interest a three-member commission form of government may have in the face of replacement with another form of government.”

But Tooele County Commission Chairman Wade Bitner defended the commission’s lack of response.

“We don’t have the information they are seeking as record to give them,” he said. “Each commissioner serves on several committees. We don’t keep a record showing each organization and where, when and how long they meet. I don’t receive any compensation for any of the groups I serve on and I don’t think my colleagues receive any compensation either.”

As for paying for a GRAMA request, Bitner said that the commissioners gave the study committee a budget.

“Any request for information should be paid out of their budget so we have an accurate accounting of how much the study cost,” he said.

However, without the requested information, the study committee holds that its task is incomplete.

“State Code chartering the forms of government study specifically requires that the study committee perform a comparative analysis based upon commissioner labor actuals, compensation levels and needs within the existing form of government. This comparative task cannot become completed without a full disclosure by the sitting governing body, the three sitting commissioners,” concludes the report’s section on commissioner labor and compensation.

The study committee’s report, which was submitted to the Tooele County Clerk’s office on Feb. 2 for statutory and constitutional review by the Tooele County Attorney, recommends that the current three-member commission form of government be replaced with a part-time, five-member county council elected by district and an appointed county manager.

The report reads, “It is the anticipation of the committee, that by changing from full-time type positions such as that found within the current three-member commission form of government, there will become a shift in the candidate pool from ‘career-seeking’ individuals to ‘community service minded altruistic-charitable citizens’ not dependent upon a full-time county income.”

According to state code, the Tooele County Attorney’s office has 45 days to review the report and render its findings. If statutory or constitutional concerns are raised, the study committee may revise the report to address those concerns.

The committee began the study process on Feb. 8, 2017, and was required by state code to submit a final report on or before Feb. 8, 2018. The study committee’s recommended change of government must be approved by local voters to be implemented.

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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