Earlier this year a committee charged with coming up with a new form for Salt Lake County government proposed an executive/council form in which the executive and individual council members could be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors or malfeasance in office."But committee members have now reversed themselves on that provision, feeling it would be too controversial and might court voter rejection of the plan.
"It wasn't that the committee thought it wasn't a good idea; we were worried that it would be controversial and perhaps contrary to state law," said Bruce Jones, the committee chairman. "There isn't anywhere else in the state that does it."
Except for some details regarding form, the committee wrapped up its work Tuesday, voting on the plan's final revisions.
Next month the committee will present the plan to the County Commission, which will decide whether to reject it or to place it on the Nov. 3 general ballot. Commissioners have said they will probably vote it through.
Salt Lake County residents will then decide whether they prefer the current three-commissioner form or the committee's executive/council form.
Here's what the plan proposes:
- One county executive and a nine-member council. The executive would constitute the executive branch of government, being the equivalent of a full-time city mayor, managing and directing county affairs except those responsibilities falling under the purview of one of the other eight independent elected offices (assessor, auditor, clerk, district attorney, re-corder, sheriff, surveyor, treasurer). In conjunction with the auditor, the executive would prepare the annual budget and present it to the council.
- The council would be the legislative branch of government, adopt-ing ordinances and resolutions, supervising audits and adopting the budget. It would create policy, with the executive carrying it out. Council members would serve part time.
- The executive and council would replace the three county commissioners. Those three positions would be abolished, but all other elected offices would remain.
- Six council members would be elected by district, with the other three elected at large. The districts would be as follows: 1) East side of Salt Lake City; 2) west side of Salt Lake City, the valley's unincorporated west side, Magna, Kearns; 3) West Valley City, Murray, part of Taylorsville; 4) Holladay/Cotton-wood and unincorporated county in the northeast part of the valley; 5) West Jordan, South Jordan, River-ton, Bluffdale, the rest of Taylorsville, part of Sandy; 6) Midvale, the rest of Sandy, Draper, Alta and unincorporated county in the southeast part of the valley.
- The executive and council members would serve four-year terms, with the council's terms staggered two years. Initially the executive would be paid $89,000 per year, with the council members receiving $17,500.
- The executive would have the power to appoint a county manager to oversee the day-to-day management of the county. That provision didn't sit well with committee member Lynn Price, who complained that voters wouldn't save any money by electing an executive who could turn around and appoint a manager to do his work.
If the County Commission and voters approve the plan, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2001.
The plan is similar to one proposed by county commissioners last summer, which after some debate they decided not to put on last November's ballot. Various interests, primarily the county's Republican Party Central Committee, had complained that the plan had not been well thought through and that more time was needed.
Jim Leigh, a Republican central committee member who served on the change-of-government committee, recently said he feels that even though the plan is similar to the one originally proposed, it has gone through an adequate process of examination and discussion.