Davis County's government will operate a little differently in the wake of a blowup this week that pitted new Commissioner William F. "Dub" Lawrence against his one-time political opponent and now fellow commissioner, William Peters.
Lawrence has questioned the county's financial status and governmental operations and accused Peters of abusing travel privileges.The two are longtime political foes. Lawrence unseated Peters from the county sheriff's office in 1974. But both pledged after the election to work together.
Political observers predicted it was a matter of time before the rift between the two reopened. It took 60 days.
"I've been frustrated the last 60 days since I took office in January," Lawrence said. "I tried to come into the system and work within it, but I felt uncomfortable.
"Too many decisions, I thought, were being made by the commissioners without any public scrutiny. Decisions are cut and dried when we go into our meetings. . . . We're public officials and our actions should be open to public scrutiny."
Lawrence's actions have prompted new procedures for meetings between the commissioners and other county officials.
Instead of informally meeting with the commissioners, either singly or as a group, department heads and others will be scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays, the commission's established meeting days. Minutes will be taken.
The old open-door policy, in which county workers could discuss problems any time with a commissioner, led to quicker decisions and more efficient county government, said Peters.
"We had a smooth operation, but this will hamper our decision-making ability," Peters said. He said county government has not been operating behind closed doors.
"We're always accessible and willing to discuss an issue or explain why we've done something," Peters said.
Lawrence's attack on Peters in the media will be a stumbling block to communication, Peters said.
"I feel sorry for him (Lawrence), for his inadequacies, that he has to build himself up by tearing the others of us down. This is a low day for our county government.
"Work with him? Sure I can still work with him," Peters said of Lawrence. "But confide in him? Never. Absolutely not. His credibility is zero. I will be more structured in what I say and how I say."
Lawrence said since he took office, Peters and Commissioner Gayle Stevenson have made decisions without consulting him that in some cases affected the departments under his charge.
"I don't feel my input was being asked, that decisions were being made not in public meetings, including decisions affecting departments I'm responsible for," said Lawrence. "And when I asked about it, or tried to put a stop to it, I was criticized.
"I've been told I'm not a team player," said Lawrence. "But I see the commission as a board, with three strong personalities, three individuals, not a team.
"I see it as a deliberative body, where I have to represent my constituency, the people who elected me. I expect some 2-1 votes instead of all 3-0 votes," Lawrence said.