A question concerning the work status of two independent contractors for the Committee of Consumer Services should be resolved next week, said David Buhler, Utah Department of Commerce director.
At issue is whether the two contractors, Tim Funk and Lisa Hurtado, are in reality employees of the committee or are legitimately meeting the criteria used in awarding consulting contracts. Both maintain office space at the committee offices in the Heber Wells Building on Third South.The committee represents small business, agriculture and residential customers in utility-regulation matters before the Public Service Commission. Funk's duties are to help publicize the committee's activities, and Hurtado provides legal counsel.
Buhler said he has received a written request from committee chairman Felshaw King asking that Funk and Hurtado be hired in another area of the department and then assigned to work with the committee. This would be a temporary arrangement until the committee can meet with the Legislature next year to seek authorization for additional full-time employees.
Buhler said he is exploring this option. The most likely action would be hiring them in the Division of Public Utilities and then assigning them to the committee. The committee is considered a part of the division, even though its activities are basically independent.
Buhler said he is not questioning the need for or the performance of the services. He said the contract fund is earmarked specifically for consulting work and the two contracts involved do not appear to meet the criteria for such contracts.
Buhler said he is still studying the matter but hopes to make a decision Monday or Tuesday. He said the solution will be temporary, however, and it will be up to the committee to convince the Legislature to increase funding for employees.