Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 on the Grand County Commission through the rest of this year. But an impasse over a replacement for Democrat Merv Lawton will allow GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter to pick his successor.
Lawton resigned in October, citing health reasons. The county's Democratic Party Central Committee then sent a list of six candidates to the other two commissioners to pick Lawton's successor. But Republican Commissioner David Knutson apparently does not like any of the finalists.After 30 days of looking over the list, Knutson said he would not make a decision, adding, "I think I'm going to let that go to the governor."
If a replacement is not named within 30 days, the governor then has the power to fill vacancies on county commissions.
"I don't like that," said Democratic Commissioner Ferne Mullen. "It's very unfair. I think it's a political move."
By delaying the selection until possibly the end of December, Knutson can ensure Republicans will decide any major issues coming before the panel. Mullen is leaving office at the end of this year and will be succeeded by Republican Manuel Torres.
Both Torres and Knutson support the proposed Book Cliffs Road project, to connect Moab with the Vernal area.
That project will cost the county about $6 million. Lawton and Mullen had said the money should be used for other projects.
The commission also needs to fill several vacancies on numerous county boards, and Knutson said his action will "allow me to have a little bit more control on those boards."
"It's plain and simple. I didn't make the situation. I'm just taking advantage of it."