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PETITION DRIVE DEAD, CLERK TELLS 5
DEADLINE PAST TO REQUEST DAVIS VOTE ON COMBINING 2 OFFICES

SHARE PETITION DRIVE DEAD, CLERK TELLS 5
DEADLINE PAST TO REQUEST DAVIS VOTE ON COMBINING 2 OFFICES

Acting on the advice of the county attorney, the Davis County clerk Friday sent out letters to five citizens informing them their referendum petition opposing the combination of two county positions - clerk and auditor - is dead.

Clerk Margene Isom sent the letter to Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence, who opposes combining the two offices and who spearheaded the petition idea, and four other county residents who signed an application to take out referendum petitions.The county attorney's opinion said the signed petitions - which would have needed almost 7,000 valid signatures - were not turned in within 30 days of the commission's passage of the ordinance combining the two offices. The delay invalidates the petition drive.

Isom told petitioners in the letter that if they proceed with gathering signatures despite her warning and present them to her office, "I am without authority to accept the referendum petitions and cannot place the matter on the ballot in 1990."

The commission on Sept. 6 passed an ordinance combining the two offices effective Jan. 1, 1991. That time period will allow Isom and incumbent Auditor Ruth Kennington to serve out their current terms and both would be free to run for the new combined office.

The action was taken after the commission appointed a non-partisan study committee to review county operations, especially in light of the clerk's office being relieved of much of its responsibility 10 months ago when the state took over operations of the district court.

Under state law, the commissioners have the power to restructure county government, including combining some offices. Several other counties in Utah are also studying merging the two offices.

Lawrence voted against the combining ordinance, saying he believes the matter was not studied enough and it jeopardizes the checks and balances necessary in government.

Isom and Kennington also opposed it, with Isom saying the two offices have different and not necessarily compatible functions. Kennington, who has had continuous clashes with the commission since she took office, also opposed and said eliminating her office was a political ploy to get her out of office.

Kennington notarized the signatures of Lawrence and the four other county residents on the referendum petition application, an action one county legal adviserwarned is "awfully close to a conflict of interest situation."

When he filed the notification two weeks ago, Lawrence said his group intended to gather 10,000 signatures by mid-March asking that the consolidation ordinance be put on the ballot for voter approval in the November 1990 general election.