Opponents on Wednesday harshly criticized a proposal to raise the Davis County attorney's salary by $14,000, which would also require him to give up his outside law practice.
"I came here expecting to see a proposal for a $3,000 or $4,000 salary increase," county commission candidate Dub Lawrence said at a Davis County Commission meeting. "I'm totally shocked by the amount. Whatever happened to the concept of public service?"The proposed raise "goes against everything I stand for as a commission candidate and as a conservative Republican," said Lawrence, who until recently was a Democrat.
Another commission candidate, Howard Stoddard, also voiced opposition, saying it is time for the county to hold the line on spending, not increase it.
Commissioners want to raise attorney Mel Wilson's salary from $44,000 to $58,000 a year, but also require him to give up his outside law practice and work full time at being county attorney.
The county attorney is an elected official and under state statute is not required to work at the job full time. Previous county attorneys have maintained outside law practices, generally limited to civil and divorce work, to supplement their salary.
The ordinance under study would give the county attorney the option of working full time for the $58,000 salary or taking the current $44,000 and maintaining an outside practice. Wilson indicated if the ordinance is passed, he will choose the higher salary and full time work.
Wilson said the county attorney's job is mostly administration, overseeing his staff of trial and civil attorneys. The county's criminal caseload is increasing about 10 percent a year, along with civil work being handled by his office, Wilson said.
It has reached the point where he will either have to work full time for the county, giving up his outside practice, or hire an additional deputy attorney, Wilson said, which would cost the county more money.
Paying the county attorney more and discontinuing an outside practice could also head off any potential conflicts of interest, commissioner Harold Tippetts said.
But the proposal sparked vocal opposition from several persons, including tax rollback proponents and two county commission candidates.
The county attorney's overall budget is already up $31,000, or 4.7 percent, over last year, Stoddard said, and should be held down.
Tax rollback activist and former Bountiful Mayor Elmer Barlow was the most insistent critic of the proposal, saying the salary is out of line with other salaries paid to local government officials. It will prompt other county and city officials to also ask for more money, he said.
Barlow said figures obtained from Job Service show average salaries for local government employees in Davis County are $1,900 a month, while average salaries for other residents are $1,600 a month. That is out of balance, he said, calling it wrong that taxpayers are supporting governments that pay their workers more than the taxpayers earn.
Tippetts said his research shows a wide range of salary levels for other county attorneys in the state, ranging from $31,000 a year in Washington County to about $50,000 a year in Weber County and $58,000 annually in Salt Lake County.
After hearing opposition arguments for about 30 minutes, the commissioners agreed to table the proposal for further consideration. No date when it will be placed on the commission agenda for action was set.