A vote to hire David Everitt, currently Moab’s city manager, to be the San Juan County Administrator was not listed on the agenda for a county commission meeting held Tuesday, May 7, but it received a vote and passed 2-1.
Everitt told The Times-Independent that he would resign “soon” from his position as Moab’s city manager to fulfill the role, handing the baton to Joel Linares sooner than his original Aug. 1 end date with the city. Linares was recently chosen by the city to become the next city manager and is currently the assistant city manager.
Utah Open Meeting laws require noticing of meeting agendas. The publicly noticed agenda for the San Juan County Commission meeting did not list the hiring resolution; rather, it was listed on the agenda for the commission workshop, which was held immediately prior to the meeting.
Legislative bodies in Utah are, in accordance with state law, permitted to vote on action items during public meetings but not workshops. The commission thus voted on the item during its meeting on Tuesday, even though the item was not on that part of the public agenda.
This led San Juan resident Kim Henderson to tell the commission Tuesday that a vote on Everitt’s hiring would be unlawful and the Deseret News to call the vote a “violation of Utah open meetings law.”
San Juan Commissioner Willie Grayeyes responded to Henderson’s assertion saying, “The law can be contested.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams said during the meeting that he was “left out of the process” of courting Everitt for the position. Everitt and Adams discussed the potential hiring on May 1, after Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy reached out to Everitt to have him send his résumé.
“I wonder what the negotiation process was and why I wasn’t included,” Adams said during the meeting.
Adams also brought into question Everitt’s rate of pay, which will be $5,763.00 every two weeks according to his employment contract. He expressed concern that funding for Everitt’s position, part of which is provided by the federal government due to his role as the county’s emergency operations manager, would be called into question if Everitt lacks proper certification.
Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman (R-Blanding) attended the meeting and in his public comments defended former Administrator Kelly Pehrson, who recently resigned on 48-hour notice to take a position as the deputy director of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
“I don’t see how a temporary replacement could cover that,” Lyman said in regard to Pehrson’s work for the county. “I think we’ve got people right here in the county – right in the office next door – that could easily keep the county going while we go through a process to hire a new administrator.”
San Juan County’s government has faced broad upheaval in the wake of a court-ordered redistricting of San Juan’s commission districts that led to the elections of Grayeyes and Maryboy. Pehrson’s sudden resignation was followed by contempt expressed by Maryboy toward the former administrator in a press release announcing his intent to hire Everitt.
“Had Pehrson not abruptly quit, the commission would have been forced to undertake disciplinary actions,” Maryboy said in the press release. “The county was operating on unwritten rules Pehrson would selectively apply, which is no way to run a government. His departure gave the county an opportunity to recruit a stellar candidate with years of experience in government systems and procedures.”
During the meeting May 7, Maryboy also proposed a resolution to put a hold on commercial development along the Highway 191 corridor in Spanish Valley, even though the move would not have been legally binding.
Once San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws explained that the resolution would not work, Maryboy cast blame to Laws for not having a draft ordinance prepared for the meeting. Laws replied that he was not told to do so.
During the meeting, Maryboy, who chaired the meeting, on a few occasions asked who was voting in favor of resolutions he had prepared, without asking about the votes against. Each motion received a 2-1 vote, with Adams casting the lone “no” vote each time.
Once, after a failure for “no” votes to be tallied, Adams interrupted Maryboy, who had moved on to the next agenda item, to say that he was voting against the previous motion. After this happened again, Maryboy on the next motion asked who was voting in favor, followed by “Bruce votes no,” before Adams cast his vote.
Everitt: “I love the challenge”
Despite the open animosity between commissioners, staff and residents, skepticism expressed by residents that Everitt was right for the role and other political and administrative hurdles, Everitt told The Times-Independent that he was excited to take on the challenge posed by administering San Juan County. He called it an “opportunity” to “get stuff done” and that he loves municipal government.
Everitt said that sentiments of concern over hiring him, some of which was expressed by residents at Tuesday’s meeting, was “not unexpected.” He also acknowledged during the meeting Tuesday that his wife, who he said lives in Salt Lake City, was “not excited” for him to extend his commuting to southeastern Utah by taking the county administrator job.
Everitt assured her, the commission and the public that he would serve in the position in an interim capacity. He also said that the county has a “very capable staff,” on which he said he’d rely to carry out the will of the commission and provide order to the embattled San Juan County government.