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OVERSON, ROSE FIGHT OVER JOB PERFORMANCE

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While the two major candidates disavow any mudslinging in the race for Salt Lake County Commission, each is calling upon the other to come clean about his or her job performance and loyalties.

Republican Brent Overson has challenged Democrat Janet Rose to open her personnel file as he did, saying voters deserve to know how well or poorly the candidates have served in government jobs.Rose, a program specialist for the Utah Division of Substance Abuse, has been attacking Overson's handling of management duties during the three years he was deputy county assessor. She said Overson was part of an administrative environment that fostered improper employment practices.

After opening his personnel file to disprove Rose's "insinuations" - supervisors gave him high marks and commendations - Over-son insinuated that Rose had something to hide in her own personnel file.

"She works in government just as I did, and I think she should let voters know if she did her job well or not," said Overson.

Rose rejected the challenge, saying, "I'm not running my campaign based on what Brent Overson wants." However, she said all of her employment evaluations as a state employee have been "above standard or outstanding."

Her current boss, Leon PoVey, director of the Division of Substance Abuse, said Rose has had outstanding job ratings during the three years she has worked in the division. He said he had no knowledge of her prior job performance in other state divisions.

Also, Rose and Overson have found fault with each others campaign finances. Overson says Rose is indebted to labor unions for almost half of her campaign war chest; Rose retorts that Overson's campaign has been heavily subsidized by developers. Both deny that they have sold out to special interests.

The third candidate in the race, Lewis H. Petersen, an independent, has jumped into the fray with questions about Overson's administrative abilities and Rose's financial competence.

Petersen said one reason he entered the race was to address the issue of unfair property assessments, for which he holds Overson partly accountable. He cites a 4,900-percent difference between the assessment of farmland he owns and a comparable neighboring property owned by Kennecott.

"If he (Overson) couldn't get any closer than that on assessing property, how in the Sam Hill can he run an equal and fair county government?"

And citing Rose's personal bankruptcy filing four years ago, Petersen asks, "If Janet can't handle her own personal finances, how in the Sam Hill is she going to manage the second largest budget in the state?"

Overson defends his administrative record by pointing to cost savings and staff reductions during his tenure. He also said the office promptly corrected errors in assessments that were called to its attention.

Rose has responded to the bankruptcy issue by noting that she took responsibility for the debt and has repaid her creditors. In a recent debate, she said, "I come from a poor family and have experienced personal financial struggles. I can understand the struggles that county employees and taxpayers are going through."

When they set those issues aside, the three candidates return to the recurring themes of the campaign: experience, balance and fiscal responsibility.

Overson, 42, is vice president of a firm that helps businesses and individuals manage and reduce their property tax liability. He served in the Utah Senate for four years.

The Democrat-controlled County Commission should have a Republican member for balance, he said. "It's important to have opposing views expressed, and I can be effective even as a minority member of the commission."

Overson said he is committed to an open and balanced budget, no tax increases, greater efficiency and the selection of qualified appointees. He has often accused the Democrats of bringing "political cronies" into county government.

Rose, 45, a three-term legislator, said, "I am committed to working for the interests of my constituents." She said partisanship would have no place in her administration.

"Salt Lake County is now and has been in need of real balance - philosophical and representational balance. We need an advocate for the interests of the people," Rose said.

She said her 10 years of experience in human services agencies makes her more qualified to assume the human services portfolio of outgoing Commissioner Mike Stewart.

Peterson, 50, operates a 14-employee freight brokering business and delicatessen. The biggest problem facing the county is high taxes, he said.

"We need to get Salt Lake County working with small businesses. We need to focus on their needs and get them involved to provide jobs."

He said the financial pressure of higher taxes is causing families to break up. "We've got to cut taxes and cut spending."