The July heat may be slowing everyone else in the valley down, but the county's warring politicians are proving to be as combat-hardy in the blaze of summer as they were in the ice of winter.

The Salt Lake County Commission and county attorney are wrangling over whether attorney Doug Short has the authority to halt a $319,000 payment to Hermes Associates and demand the developer return $661,000 the county already paid it.The Salt Lake County Commission years ago agreed to pay Hermes nearly $1 million for improving the streets, sidewalks and gutters in front of Hermes' Fort Union development, said Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Brent Overson.

All of those improvements were off the Hermes property. "We considered them county expenses. If we'd had the money at the time, we would have done the improvements ourselves," Overson said.

Hermes put in traffic lights, landscaped medians, widened roads and finished off the sidewalks and gutters on 13th East and 7200 South.

"We require developers to make these improvements anyway," Short said. "We made developers pay for similar improvements across the street at the Union Park Center. We made them put in bridges, widen the road, all of that stuff."

But that's not the crux of Short's argument. The Utah Supreme Court last fall ruled that the county's redevelopment plan for the project was illegal, essentially wiping out all RDA agreements between the county and Hermes, including $6 million in tax breaks from the county.

Short considers the $1 million deal over street improvements to be part of the now-defunct RDA.

Hence, the $661,000 payment was illegal, he said. "We're going after the money."

The commission is furious. Once again, Short is undercutting the commission's ability to keep its word - a long-standing point of tension between Short and the commission.

Short has also decided to sue Hermes for the money without consulting his client, the commission, Overson said.

"He hasn't discussed this with the commission. Right now, I have no comment except to say that the county attorney owes the commission an opportunity to discuss this before he forays into the press . . . I think it's highly unethical for him to communicate with the press."

"Going after the money isn't the commission's call," Short said. The law clearly empowers the county attorney to go after illegally paid funds. "If we left these decisions up to the Salt Lake County Commission, they would become political decisions instead of legal decisions."

Short said he notified the commission of his plans in a memo to the commission last week. Overson noted that Short simultaneously sent a copy of the memo to the attorney of Eva Johnson, a woman suing the Salt Lake County Commission over the Hermes project.

"It's nice of him to send a copy to the opposition on an issue he should have discussed with us," Overson said.

Nick Colessides, attorney for Hermes Associates, said he would meet with Short to discuss the matter.