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PLAN TO RAISE PAY OF COUNTY OFFICIALS DIES

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Outgoing Utah County commissioners were in a position to give their replacements and other elected officials a late Christmas present - a pay raise.

Instead, they left that action to the new county administration.In their last public hearing as county commissioners, Malcolm Beck and Richard Johnson discussed a proposed ordinance that would have increased annual salaries for Utah County elected officials by establishing annual "step" increases for the officials as they gain experience and cost-of-living increases.

County treasurer Leonard Ellis requested that the commission consider the increases. Included in the discussions were the salaries of Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson, sheriff Dave Bateman and county clerk/auditor Bruce Peacock, as well as incoming commissioners David Gardner and Jerry Grover.

But rather than act on the salaries, which would range from $73,736 for Bryson to $47,606 for incoming county recorder Randy Covington, the commission - minus Gary Herbert, who at $52,858 would have been the highest-paid commissioner - voted to continue the public hearing so the wording for the ordinance could be revised and other changes could be made.

"The wording for the ordinance isn't adequate and the timing isn't right," Beck said. "There isn't money in the budget to pay for the raises to start in January."

Though Beck said he favored pay increases for the officials, he also said he was bothered by the initial salary schedule, which would have created a $3,000 discrepancy between the commission salaries.

"I don't think you can separate by seniority when you're paying the commissioners," Beck said. "You pay one commissioner, you should pay all three the same."

However, Johnson said that individuals who run for office are expecting a certain amount of compensation, which is advertised when the posts come open every four years.

"They've agreed to serve at a salary and should do so accordingly," Johnson said.

The commission last established salaries for officials elected to county posts in 1991, meaning they haven't received a pay raise in three years. Beck, who just completed his eighth year on the commission, refused a pay increase when he took office and declined to raise his salary in the 1991 adjustment.

"My salary is still the same as when I walked into office in 1987," Beck said. "We've raised the other salaries only once in the past eight years. We've been quite conservative in how we've compensated our elected officials."

Herbert deferred on taking any action after the public hearing because he said he didn't want his actions to be interpreted as self-motivated.

"But as (elected officials) prove their spurs, they should have the opportunity to move up in pay," Herbert said.

Some in attendance at the hearing Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, although Salt Lake and Davis counties both have approved similar pay increases, since state law requires elected officials' compensation to be at a set rate.

The county's personnel director, Mike Callahan, said the commission would have to set those salary rates and hold public hearings to make increases, as officials in those counties have done.

No time schedule for the commission to reconsider the ordinance has been set, and the incoming commissioners - who were in attendance at the meeting - did not comment on the proposal.