Concerned about what they see as negative publicity, a group of Davis County officials and the county employee association Monday announced the hiring of a public relations consultant.

The consultant, former congressional press secretary Ed Snow, will be paid out of their own pockets, Commission Chairman Bill Peters said. No tax money will be used, he emphasized."We need to let Davis County residents know about the outstanding employees within the county and the excellent services they provide," said Jerry Wilson, president of the Davis County Employees Association.

Peters said his concern came after friends and associates began asking him about what he said are negative images and publicity the county has been getting.

"It's a shame that our county government doesn't have a better image because it is probably the best run county in the state," Peters said.

Davis County has fewer employees per capita than any other county in the state, said Peters, and it operates on a smaller percentage of taxes than any county in Utah.

Recent infighting between Peters and new Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence, longtime political foes, received widespread news coverage, along with charges Lawrence has made that county officials hold secret meetings and that the county is in a shaky financial situation.

"We simply are not being deceptive or unfair when we say that Davis County is looked at as an example of outstanding local government by officials throughout Utah," Commissioner Gayle Stevenson said. Stevenson, who was appointed to the commission last summer and elected in November, has tried to stay aloof from the Peters and Lawrence fray.

"Unfortunately, even though county employees provide excellent services, we have not done a good enough job in publicizing those efforts. That's why we've used private funds to retain Mr. Snow," Peters said.

Wilson said he became aware of the need for better communications when only county employees nominated their co-workers for the annual employee of the year honor.

"Any citizen within the county can nominate an employee of the year, but it didn't happen because we didn't communicate well enough," said Wilson. Taxpayers are aware of the services employees provide and he would like to get them involved in the nomination process, Wilson said.

Snow is a free-lance writer and public relations consultant, working five years as press secretary to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. Snow was most recently press secretary for the Republicans in the Utah House of Representatives during the past session.