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Eight Davis County employees filed a lawsuit in 2nd District Court Thursday charging the county reneged on its promised merit increase this year.

The employees, all from the Davis County Sheriff's Department, are asking that the raises be reinstated as part of their employment contract with the county.Citing a tight budget, the Davis County Commission this year did not award employees a merit increase. Instead, workers were given a one-time bonus of up to $500, depending on their time of employment and evaluation.

The Davis County Employees Association (DCEA) protested the plan, announced last fall when the county budget was being put together and discussed legal action.

The merit pay issue cropped up again last month when the commission dipped into interest earned on hospital bonds sold several years ago, appropriating $650,000 to buy 57 acres of land for a fairgrounds and future county jail expansion in West Farmington.

DCEA representatives maintain if money was available for that land purchase, it could have been used to give employees a pay raise.

In their suit, the eight allege the county offered a 3.45 percent merit increase to employees who entered into a written employee appraisal plan, performed their jobs according to the job objectives, and received above average performance evaluations from their superiors.

They charge they carried out their end of the agreement and by entering into a written performance appraisal plan, an employment contract exists between the workers and the county.

The commission, they charge, has breached the contract and they are asking for their merit increase, minus the bonus money paid under the commission's alternate plan.

Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson said Friday he doesn't believe the suit has any legal merit.

A legislative entity such as the commission can't spend money it doesn't have, Wilson said, and is given wide latitude in matters of budgeting and salaries.

Wilson said he knows of no case where government employees have successfully sued for a pay increase.