The Utah Department of Employment Security has ruled that an umpire for some Salt Lake County softball games last summer is entitled to unemployment benefits. County officials said they will appeal the ruling.

Dick Nixon, deputy Salt Lake County attorney, said he will research similiar cases in other jurisdictions and attempt to define the county's responsibilities in such cases.Department officials would not identify the umpire who filed for unemployment and listed Salt Lake County as one of his employers.

Before paying any benefits, questionnaires were sent to 30 umpires, referees, scorekeepers and timers, who are among the 1,373 people who officiate, keep score or time for Salt Lake County recreation programs.

Duane Price, director of unemployment insurance for employment security, said the decision was based upon a field audit that consisted of reading the questionnaires and asking county recreation officials how the umpire program operates.

Periodically, the county sends the umpires and referees a form to sign, stating they are independent contractors. To qualify as an independent contractor, a person must show that he is not controlled by his employer and is established in his own profession. Contractors must also show they are free to perform the services for other employers, too.

Price said the field auditors determined the umpire met the first criterion of the law, but not the second.The finding will be used in determining if unemployment benefits should be paid to the umpire. Price said before any benefits are paid, the applicant must be unemployed from all jobs, not just the umpire job.

Nixon said even after any appeals are completed and if the county is ordered to reimburse the department for any benefits paid, the county's liability would not be high because few of the umpires and referees are unemployed.

He said the ruling would be more devastating to those businesses required to pay 8 percent into the Unemployment Insurance Fund.