An opinion from the Cache County attorney's office has concluded that the recent secret-ballot election of the new County Council chairman was illegal and corrective action must be taken.

The opinion issued Thursday by Deputy County Attorney Gary McKean said, "The public is entitled to know how their elected county officials vote on this issue and any other issue that comes before them."At a council meeting on Tuesday, Jay Monson, who has served as council chairman since the new form of government was implemented two years ago, suggested that a "more democratic way" to elect his successor would be for each member to write the name of his choice for chairman on a secret ballot excluding his name.

The vote resulted in a tie between Councilman Dennis Funk and Councilwoman Ann Skanchy, who has served as vice chairwoman of the body for the past two years.

In a second secret vote, Funk was elected chairman. But former City Councilwoman Carol Clay announced the next day that she was challenging the voting process.

McKean said each council member will be asked to reveal the way he or she voted at the panel's next meeting on Jan. 17.

"If any of them want to change their vote they can do so because the first vote has been declared null and void," he said.

If Funk's election is reaffirmed, it will be the first time in history that a Democrat has served as council chairman. He is one of two Democrats on the seven-member council.

During the 1970s, Robert Chambers, a Democrat and brother-in-law to Funk, served as a county commissioner and twice asked to be given a chance to be chairman. The two Republican commissioners refused to go along and local Republican leaders backed them up, saying the party in power always holds the top leadership position.