The creation of a county chief administrator's post is on hold for at least a week while Salt Lake County commissioners determine whether the proposed new job is needed, the commission's chairman said.
Commissioners have met twice this week to discuss related issues, including the administrator's salary and employment contract. But the major issue - still unresolved - is whether commissioners will commit to the administrator concept.So far they are anything but committed. Wednesday, Commission Chairman Mike Stewart told Utah Tax Limitation Coalition leader Merrill Cook, who appeared at a commission meeting to voice opposition to the administrator post, commissioners will take until next week to decide whether the job is needed.
In a Tuesday discussion session, the three commissioners noted the administrator concept at best appears to have only lukewarm support from individual county managers who studied it at the commissioners' behest.
Those managers he's talked to think the concept either won't work at all because commissioners won't delegate adequate authority or will work only after a shakedown period during which kinks in the system can be worked out, said Commissioner Bart Barker.
"Most believe the first administrator has less chance of succeeding than a subsequent one," Barker said. "And many question whether there would be a second administrator appointed after the first one is gone."
Barker said he found county managers displayed more interest in applying for a department head position - one step below the proposed administrator's level - than for the administrator's job. The chief administrator's post was first proposed by a consultant's 1977 government modernization study, which suggested it would improve government efficiency. Commissioners like the idea of delegating to an administrator many of their daily executive duties, leaving them more time for policy-making and strategic planning.
But no one inside the county organization is championing the concept, and most reaction from outside the organization has been opposition. Even the commissioners have different ideas about the administrator's job that must be reconciled if the position is created.
Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu favors appointing a chief administrator only if creation of the post is accompanied by a reorganization that keeps the administrator from becoming a new layer of government.
But such a reorganization would mean department heads in existing positions would have to take a reduction in authority and probably a pay cut. Another alternative is an even more extensive reorganization that makes four smaller departments of the current Public Works, Administrative Services and Human Services departments, with the new department reporting to the administrator.
A third alternative is for commissioners to scrap the administrator concept and look for other ways to improve efficiency.
"Frankly, as we re-evaluate (the administrator), we'll look at other options that can address the concerns that have been expressed," Stewart said.