As noted by the TI last week, in a move occurring far under the radar screen of the Grand County voter, the Grand County Council voted unanimously in their last meeting of 2018 to award themselves a 200 percent salary increase! They effectively tripled their yearly salaries. Not bad for part-time jobs. Now they make more than about half of the full-time jobs in Grand County pay in the service sector. How many people in Grand County were aware such an increase was being considered? How much outreach did any of the council members conduct with the public to tell us they were considering such a last-minute raid on the county treasury? And what has this particular council done over the past two years that would warrant such a magnanimous reward at the taxpayer’s expense?
They’ll tell you this was the result of an across-the-board compensation survey that a previous council had initiated, and they had no choice but to vote for this increase based on the results of that analysis. They’ll tell you they discussed this salary increase in open public budget meetings several times in the past couple of months, and then issued a public notice and conducted a public meeting to get your input. When no one came or responded, they were apparently certain no one cared and gladly voted on the increase, with no open discussion among themselves, at their meeting on Dec. 18.
As citizens of Grand County and taxpayers we deserve better than this. We have had multiple comparative surveys done over the years of county employee and elected officials salaries compared to other similar size counties in Utah. We’ve often granted salary increases to staff and other elected officials based on these studies. But never, ever were 200 percent salary increases granted to anyone, much less the legislative body charged with keeping their eyes on taxpayer monies. Which of you has the time or the type of job that will allow you to attend multiple budget meetings that occur in the mornings on weekdays? Who goes to the public notice section first thing every week when they open the paper? And even if you had, there would have been no detail provided specific to this raise and you would have had to go to a 4 o’clock meeting or sift through hundreds of pages of budget documents, to be obtained at the county offices, not online, in order to understand what they were up to.
No, this was done with essentially no effort on the part of the council to legitimately let the public know what they were considering. This was hidden behind government “process.” This is what complete non-transparency looks like. This is what secrecy from publicly elected officials looks like.
Having at one time served a term on this council I know how hard the job can be and the work that can be involved. But every council this county has had for the past 26 years worked every bit as hard. Every council member knew what the salary compensation was before they decided to run for these offices. And every council member knew that, like this form of government or not, the concept as voted on and codified in 1992 was for a part-time, citizen-based form of government. Responsible cost of living salary increases are well accepted by county residents. But highway robbery is not!
If you are as troubled by this unreasonable “gift” to themselves as I am, you can write your council members at 125 East Center, or better yet send them an email at: email@example.com.
– Lynn Jackson
Former county council member
and Grand County taxpayer