Over the objections of two members, the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District board has given the job of district general manager to David Ovard, former administrative assistant to Robert B. Hilbert.

After 35 years in the district's top spot, Hilbert resigned nearly two weeks ago, in part because of a running fight between Sandy and the district over district management.Board member Byron Jorgenson, who is Sandy's city manager, objected to the board's choosing Ovard without interviewing anyone else. Paul Henderson of West Jordan joined in that concern.

Jorgenson stressed that he likes Ovard and will support him in his new job, but he believes the process used was wrong.

"I felt it's almost an immoral sort of thing to do in a public agency. It breaks the public trust."

District board chairman Gerald Maloney said he understands Jorgenson's and Henderson's concerns, but the district is not required to advertise the position and consider anyone else.

He said other board members felt that since Ovard has been the No. 2 man at the district for several years and anyone coming in would have to learn the job from him, "Dave had earned the opportunity to give it a shot." He stressed that Ovard can be removed at the board's pleasure.

Jorgenson also said he was shocked to learn that Hilbert had been earning more than $70,000 a year as general manager. He called that amount "really quite high, higher than necessary."

Maloney said Hilbert's salary of about $72,000 a year plus a car allowance of about $400 a month was not out of line for someone with his years of experience.

He said that when Ovard was appointed last Friday, he indicated he's satisfied with his current salary of $57,500 per year but would like either a company car or car allowance if possible. Maloney said the board took that under advisement, but Ovard currently has the shared use of a company car.

The chairman said the legislative auditor's office, which is reviewing the district, has remarked on the absence of a stated salary range for the general manager's job. The district will probably hire an outside consultant to help determine that range, he said.