Members of the Legislative Audit Subcommittee want lawmakers to decide whether $50 an hour is too much to pay the board of the Worker's Compensation Fund of Utah.
The remuneration given each of the five board members who oversee the fund is twice the amount normally paid by the state, according to an audit released Monday by the Legislative auditor general.House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy, asked that every legislator receive a copy of the audit so that the $50-an-hour rate can be examined next session.
Moody said "that's not a bad per-hour basis," to the average Utahn and even to those who serve on corporate boards. "I think it's legitimate to take a look at it."
But Larry Higgins, who sits on the fund board as well as several other corporate and charitable boards, said he spends at least three to four hours preparing for every hour he is paid to attend meetings.
Higgins, who is retired, said the amount he makes for sitting on other boards varies from nothing from a charitable institution to "eight times as much" as the $50 fund-board rate from a bank.
"I see it as a real challenge," Higgins said of his service on the fund board. "If they doubled the remuneration, it wouldn't bother me. If they cut it in half, it wouldn't bother me."
The audit also noted that board members are spending so much time on subcommittee assignments and strategic planning that it became necessary to start holding two meetings a month instead of just one.
Fund President Blaine Palmer said board members' compensation was changed from $100 per meeting to $50 an hour because they carry more fiduciary responsibility as well as liability than members of other state boards.
"There's a lot of demand placed on the board," Palmer said, explaining that fund counsel has determined the board members are directly responsible for their decisions rather than advisers.
The audit was sought by lawmakers to determine the effect of 1988 legislation that removed the fund from under the Department Administrative Services and placed it under the direction of the fund board.
The decision to distance the fund from state control was made to minimize legal liability, according to the audit. The fund is the "insurance carrier of last resort" for industrial insurance mandated by the state.
The audit found, "the fund is known nationally as an efficient organization," and to "continue this tradition, all new administrative systems must be of high quality."
Although a number of recommendations were made in the audit, it was noted that because fund management is still implementing changes, it was difficult to fully evaluate controls over the new system.
Also Monday, the legislative subcommittee heard an audit on state Division of Telecommunications Services. Among the recommendations in that audit was for a rate reduction to users.
The audit found that the division could reduce its depreciation expense by about $800,000 annually, savings that "should be passed on in the form of rate reductions to the users."