Employees of the state's Public Utilities Division should be prohibited from accepting jobs with a utility company until one or two years after they quit working for the state, leaders of several watchdog groups say.
But Gov. Norm Bangerter, while not strongly opposed to the idea, said he thinks it would be wrong to prevent someone from finding a new job.Leaders of four grass-roots citizen groups met Tuesday with Bangerter to say the state's public utility division has become a "revolving door" where employees leave for better jobs as soon as they are trained.
The employees may also be taking sensitive information with them.
However, employees of the division said they could think of no recent examples of people leaving the state to work for a utility. On the contrary, some utility employees have come to work for the state, they said.
But Justin Stewart, a member of the board of trustees of the Coalition of Senior Citizens, said it is wrong for state employees to have the opportunity to move directly into a job with a utility.
"I don't think it's proper. They're supposed to regulate utilities in the public's best interest," he said. "It looks bad and it is bad."
Some employees may be perceived as doing all they can to aim for a job with a utility, said Barbara Toomer, executive director of the Salt Lake Citizens' Congress.
Bangerter said he wants more information on how widespread the problem is before taking a stand. But he acknowledged the complaint is not a new one.
"I've thought about it some," Bangerter said. "It's a hard call because we're talking about livelihood. I don't want employees to ever feel like they have to pass up an opportunity because of their employment. That would be my basic philosophy."
Leaders of the groups want a law that would force employees to stay with the state either one or two years before taking a job with a utility company.
On another matter, the groups won support from the governor for a plan to more than double the rate telephone users are charged for a phone system that helps deaf or speech-impaired people.
Telephone customers now are charged 3 cents per month for the system. Toomer said the rate should be raised to 6.5 cents.
The system allows people to communicate via typewritten messages over telephone lines. Money collected is used to buy special telephones for people with a need and to man a system the deaf communicate with others who do not have the phones.
Toomer said deaf and speech-impaired people have to wait eight to 10 minutes to use the system. The extra money would cut that time in half and allow more access.
"There are about 1,000 houses that don't have it (the special phone) that could use it," Toomer said.