Keeping an eye out for the state's interests in the 2002 Winter Games should be a full-time job, Utah Auditor Auston Johnson told the Legislature's Olympic oversight committee.
Johnson should know. When lawmakers came up with the idea for a state Olympic coordinator last year, they decided the state auditor could do the job in addition to the duties of the elected post.The way the law is written, Johnson is due to be replaced in July 1997 by a full-time Olympic coordinator appointed by the governor. But some lawmakers have said they're not so sure a full-time state employee needs to be hired that soon.
After reviewing a list of areas where the state will be involved with the $1 billion event, Johnson told members of the Legislature's Sports Advisory Committee Thursday that even now there's plenty of work.
"There's a lot that's starting to happen with state government," Johnson said, recommending that the law be allowed to take effect as written so a coordinator can take over next July, when the new budget year begins.
State departments expected to provide assistance to Olympic organizers include transportation, health and public safety. The Olympic coordinator is responsible for reviewing all of the state's Olympic-related contracts.
By having those contracts go through a single person, lawmakers hoped to make sure that the amount of money charged for those services - if any - is consistent throughout state government.
The co-chairman of the Sports Advisory Committee, Sen. Alarik Myrin, R-Altamont, said after the meeting that he agrees with Johnson that the position should become full-time in July.
Myrin, who sponsored the legislation creating the job, was one of the lawmakers who said the need for a full-time position should be re-evaluated during the upcoming legislative session.
"I think there's enough work to justify it . . . so we don't have to go back and fix things," Myrin told the Deseret News. He said lawmakers still need more discussion to determine what Olympic organizers ought to be paying for.
Olympic organizers have been careful to remind lawmakers and anyone else who'll listen that their budget is too tight for them to help pay for government projects that benefit the Games, like the reconstruction of I-15.
During Thursday's meeting with lawmakers, the message was the same. "The budget's easy to stay within as long as we can tell people `no,' " the Olympic committee's vice president of finance, Gordon Crabtree, said.
That's apparently not the answer lawmakers are always going to be willing to accept. "I can understand that on a half-billion project, but there are things where they're going to have to share in the costs," Myrin said.
Also after the meeting, Johnson said he believes it's a "bad combination" to make the state auditor responsible for monitoring the state's deals with Olympic organizers, since they'll be audited by the office later.
"I think it's bad policy to have auditors audit their own work," Johnson said. His office checks the annual financial statements of state agencies but does not have any control over the privately funded Salt Lake Organizing Committee.