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DAVIS PANEL TO STUDY FUSING OF OFFICES

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A five-member commission is being appointed to determine whether the offices of county clerk and county auditor should be combined into a single position in Davis County.

County Commission chairman William Peters announced the plan Wednesday and strongly emphasized it is a measure to ensure good, efficient government and not a political move against the incumbent auditor.Auditor Ruth Kennington was stripped of many of her duties last fall by the commission, which charged she was not doing her job of auditing county departments despite the addition of two staff members. An outside auditing firm was hired to perform the work.

The rift between the auditor and the commissioners has cooled somewhat since the November election of William "Dub" Lawrence to the commission. Lawrence and Kennington have worked together closely since he took office.

Neither Lawrence, Kennington, nor county clerk Margene Isom, who was also elected in November to fill out a two-year interim term, were at Wednesday's commission meeting. Kennington and Isom are attending a clerks and auditors conference in Moab and Lawrence is on vacation.

Peters said all three officials are aware of the appointment of the five-member, bipartisan committee.

Named to the commission so far are Mel Miles, former personnel director for the county and now personnel director for the Davis School District; Democrat Harold Shafter, a Bountiful councilman and 1986 county commission candidate; and Mark Taylor, the recently elected Davis Republican Party chairman.

A member from the Davis Council of Governments and the county employees association will be named shortly, Peters said.

Davis County for years had a combined auditor-clerk position, Peters said, but in 1978 split the office into two jobs. But in January of this year, the state court division took over district court operations, which Peters said reduced the county clerk's duties by about 70 percent.

Combining the two offices could be a good move to increase efficiency and save the county money, Peters said. Box Elder and Utah counties have already made the move, he said.

Deputy county attorney Gerald Hess said if the two offices are consolidated, it would take effect in January 1991 after both offices come open in the November 1990 elections.

Both Isom and Kennington are up for re-election that year and would be free to run for the consolidated office, Hess said, pointing to that as further evidence that the proposal is not a political maneuver by the commission to push Kennington out of office.

The commission is asking the study committee to report back in 90 days on the consolidation proposal and with any other recommendations on making county government more efficient.

The incumbent clerk and auditor will be among those consulted by the committee, Peters said, to insure their input in the final recommendation.