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CACHE ATTORNEY REJECTS IDEA TO ALTER OFFICE FORM

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Cache County Attorney Gary McKean says elected offices cannot be changed to appointed positions either by the County Council or through a vote of the people.

In the same advisory opinion issued Wednesday, McKean also said county elected offices cannot be made non-partisan by the council or voters.Last month, the Cache County Council asked McKean to research the law after county executive Bruce King and auditor Tamra Stones had a disagreement over who should control the budget.

"The document which implemented the new council-executive form of government in 1987 refers to the executive as the budget officer for the county, yet state statutes make it clear that the elected auditor is the county's chief fiscal officer," McKean said.

King was not at last month's meeting, but McKean said the executive believes the form of government would work better if the auditor were appointed, just as the city of Logan's fiscal officer is appointed by the mayor.

At that meeting, councilman Jay Monson said he has always believed there is no need for County Council elections to be partisan, so the council asked McKean to research both issues.

In his memo, McKean said although the council-executive form of government provides for additions to the seven-member council, "neither the (state) constitution nor the statutes enabling this form of government authorize the appointment of county officers in lieu of elections."

On the issue of non-partisan elections, McKean said the Utah Legislature has specified that political parties may be organized and nominate candidates for all county elected offices.

"No statute regarding this form of government authorizes the council, executive or county electors to conduct an election or adopt ordinances providing that elective offices be made non-partisan," he said.

McKean said he is not aware of any counties that have adopted ordinances or conducted elections to allow county offices to become appointed or non-partisan.

"At the least, I believe it would require new legislation for either action," he said.