The Salt Lake County sheriff's office, criticized by some for employing too few women and ethnic minorities, should bring its hiring and promotion practices in line with the rest of the county, a county commissioner says.

County Commission Chairman Bart Barker said Wednesday he wants to organize a committee to study how the Public Safety Merit Commission, the sheriff's grievance board, compares with the Career Service Council, the grievance board for the rest of the county.The plan is considerably softer than an earlier proposal to merge the two boards - an idea vigorously opposed by Sheriff N.D. Hayward. Hayward could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"My whole approach is in the spirit of compromise and goodwill," Barker said. "If we can solve the perceived problems without merging the systems, it seems we can meet everyone's needs."

Barker's plan also calls for the county's equal employment officer to study whether goals should be set. An original draft of the proposal mentioned possible hiring quotas, but the wording was changed because county attorneys worried the plan would be an admission of wrongful hiring practices, Barker said.

County administrators, including the sheriff, will discuss the proposal in an upcoming meeting, Barker said. The meeting may not come until the end of June.

The sheriff's hiring practices have come under close scrutiny in recent months because Brian Barnard, an attorney with the Utah Legal Clinic, charged last year Hayward hires far too few women and minorities. He threatened legal action on behalf of disgruntled women unless commissioners forced a change.

Barker organized a four-member independent panel to study discrimination countywide and to also focus on the sheriff's office. The panel's initial report in October charged that discrimination and sexual harassment was pervasive in all county divisions.

Hayward was angered by the report and demanded to know the names of the approximately 100 employees who had testified to the panel behind closed doors.

The panel published a separate report on the sheriff's office in January, outlining what it considered to be obstacles keeping women and minorities from advancing. The report recommended merging the two grievance boards.