Lyle Anderson of San Juan County agreed this week to act as Grand County attorney while the County Commission continues to review applicants for the post.
Grand County commissioners on Monday approved a contract to pay Anderson and Anderson Professional Corp. of Monticello $5,000 a month beginning Jan. 7 to handle the county's legal business until a new county attorney is appointed.Anderson had been serving as deputy Grand County attorney under Elaine M. Coates, who was ousted as county attorney in the general election last November. Her term ended Monday.
Coates' defeat left the office vacant, although she ran unopposed. In accordance with a new law, voters were allowed to decide in yes-no balloting whether to retain Coates. Their "no" vote left it up to commissioners to fill the office by appointment.
No local attorneys petitioned for appointment to the post, and the county is now advertising for applicants throughout the state and in Grand Junction, Colo. Commission Chairman David Knutson said an appointment could be made by Feb. 18.
Anderson proposed in a letter that commissioners extend his contract with the county and assign him temporary duty as county attorney.
He told commissioners during their regular meeting Monday that he was unsure whether an unelected, acting county attorney can legally prosecute because the office of county attorney is established as an elected post under the Utah Constitution.
"It's not an argument I'd laugh off the floor. The question is whether there's something we can do about it," he said.
Anderson said he had consulted the Utah attorney general's office about the issue and was told the problem could be resolved if he is sworn in as a special assistant to the attorney general. "The fact remains, we don't have an elected county attorney and won't for four years, so we're plowing new ground here in Grand County," Knutson said.
While serving as Grand County attorney, Anderson will continue living in Monticello. He told commissioners he should be able to staff the county office full-time four days each week and the rest of the week take care of things by phone.
Anderson had been making $2,250 a month as deputy county attorney, while Coates was paid $2,600 including benefits. He said $5,000 should be sufficient pay, on a temporary basis, to provide the same amount of service both had offered.
"We'll talk further when we get to the point of appointing," he said.
Anderson was sworn in as acting county attorney with approval from Knutson and the two newest commissioners, Mary "Sam" Cunningham and Manuel Torres.
Gov. Norman Bangerter appointed Cunningham as commissioner last month to complete two years of the unexpired term of former Commission Chairman Merv Lawton, who resigned last October because of health reasons.
The appointment had been deferred to the governor because the other two commissioners were unable to agree on who to name from a list of six Democratic nominees submitted in November.