With voter approval of the change in Tooele County’s form of government, the current county commission has a limited life, but it still has important work to accomplish — along with governing the county for two more years.
The county commission will need to divide the county into five districts of reasonably equal population. And it needs to be done in time for candidates to file and run for election to the council in the November 2020 election.
State codes gives the responsibility of determining the district boundaries to the county’s legislative body, which at this time is the county commission.
During the study process, Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead told the study committee that the county clerk would draw up proposed boundaries that will be approved by the county commission.
Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the county council will be the county’s legislative body. It will have the authority, by state code, to pass ordinances, rules, and regulations — including amendments to the general plan, land use ordinances, and zoning designations, levy taxes, approve the annual budget, investigate county officers, audit county officers, set the salary of elected officials, veto hiring decisions of elected officials, and to consolidate or separate elected county offices.
The study committee recommended an annual stipend for council members between $20,000 and $25,000 with no benefits.
In the November 2020 election, three county council districts will vote and select a council member for their district.
County Commissioner Tom Tripp and Kendall Thomas will become county council members representing their districts as of Jan. 1, 2021. They will serve as county council members for two years.
The study committee report doesn’t address the issue of what will happen if Tripp, who lives in Grantsville, and Thomas, who lives in Stockton, end up in the same district.
During the 2022 election, voters in Tripp’s and Thomas’ districts will select council members for their districts that will serve four-year terms.
This process creates three four-year council members elected during every presidential election and two four-year council members elected in every midterm election.
One of the first responsibilities of the new county council will be to appoint the first county manager.
To expedite this process, the study committee recommended that the county commission appoint a volunteer citizens county manager selection screening committee in January 2020.
The committee would be responsible for the development of a job description and qualifications, including education and experience.
The committee would publish the job, accept applications, and prescreen and rank applicants. The ranked applications would be presented to county councilmembers after they take their place in 2021.
The council would conduct interviews, negotiate an agreement with their selection and approve an appointment by April 2021, according to the study committee’s recommendation.
The study committee recommended that the qualifications include 10 years experience working as an executive administrator in a city or county government, a bachelor’s degree in public administration, public finance or similar field from an accredited college or university, with a master’s degree in public or business administration preferred.
They recommended that applicants would not need to currently live in the county, but residency would be required during employment.
After reviewing the salary of city and county managers in Utah, the study committee recommended that the manager be an at-will employee with a salary ranging from $90,000 to $120,000, depending on experience, with the same benefit package as full-time county employees.
The study committee also suggested an annual 10 percent performance bonus for the county manager, dependent on budget compliance in all areas managed by the manager.
The manager’s contract would provide for termination for cause, with no severance pay, for ethics violations, failure to achieve performance metrics, breach of contract, fraud, or involvement in criminal action. A six-month severance package would be offered for dismissal without cause, according to the study committee’s recommendation.
The manager’s executive responsibilities will include: supervisory control over county departments that have appointed heads; the execution of programs and policies of the county council; ensure compliance with applicable state and county laws and ordinances; exercise administrative and auditing control over county funds; supervise and direct budgeting, accounting, personnel management and purchasing; conduct planning studies related to improvements in county government; and review expenditures and the effectiveness of departmental budget controls.
State code provides for certain separation of responsibilities between the council and the manager, even though the manager is hired by and is accountable to the council.
A member of the council may not directly or indirectly, by suggestion or otherwise, attempt to influence or coerce the manager in making any appointment or removing any officer or employee. A member of the council may not attempt to influence the purchasing of supplies or attempt to exact any promise relative to any appointment from any candidate for manager.
Individual council members also may not discuss directly or indirectly with the manager the matter of specific appointments to any county office or employment, according to state code.
However, the council is not prohibited by state code from fully and freely discussing with or suggesting to the manager anything pertaining to county affairs or the interests of the county while in open session.
State code also reads, “Neither manager nor any person in the employ of the county shall take part in securing, or contributing any money toward, the nomination or election of any candidate for a county office.”
Along with deciding if and how the county’s form of government should be changed, the study committee’s legal duties also include identifying any additional recommendations to improve the efficiency and economy of the administration of local government within the county.
Among the study committee’s recommendations for improvements was a revision of the county’s budget process.
The committee suggested that budget advisory committee’s membership be revised to consist of two citizens and a representative of all county departments.
The committee would meet with the county manager to develop and present the budget. All committee meetings would be open to the public, according to the committee’s recommendation.
The study committee also recommended that a portion of savings created by adopting the new form of government should be invested in communication technology.
Smartphones should be issued to council members and the county manager that are capable of receiving phone calls, text, voice messages, and county email. Phone numbers and core hours and days of availability should be published on the county’s website, according to the committee’s recommendation.
In order to provide a paper trail of decisions to provide transparency and to be used by future employees inheriting a job, the study committee recommended the development of written interdepartmental agreements.
After completing interviews with department heads and employees, the study committee determined that written agreements should replace the current system of informal verbal arrangements.
With the passing of Proposition 6, Richard Mitchell, study committee chairman, suggested that the county commission should appoint a volunteer committee to develop those interdepartmental agreements.
Proposition 6 ended election night with 53 percent of the votes cast. Provisional ballots and ballots postmarked by Nov. 5 that arrive at the clerk’s office after the election will be counted and the final vote tally will be approved in two weeks, according to Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette.