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GOP candidate campaigns on county time, Demo says

SHARE GOP candidate campaigns on county time, Demo says

Democrat Mike Reberg, who's running for a seat on the Salt Lake County Commission, says one of his Republican opponents, Mark Shurtleff, campaigns on county time.

Reberg, county deputy director of public works, has taken an unpaid leave of absence to campaign full time. So has county employee Arlene Ellis, who's running for county clerk. In fact, all county employees who are still in the running for county office have either left their jobs or taken an extended leave, except one: Deputy County Attorney Mark Shurtleff.Reberg notes the numerous times Shurtleff has attended campaign functions or talked with reporters or done any of the myriad other things required for active candidates during working hours. He says Shurtleff's cheating taxpayers.

Not so, Shurtleff responds.

With the blessing of his boss, County Attorney Doug Short, Shurtleff has gotten around the problem by taking numerous mini-leaves of a half-day here, a day there, an hour or two there. During those times, Shurtleff and Short say, he is not paid, nor does he acquire vacation or retirement benefits.

Shurtleff says he simply can't afford to stop working completely, nor will his ongoing duties allow him to. Short confirmed that.

"I can't spare him," Short said. "He's still working but only part of the time. He's taking leave part of the time."

A law passed by this year's Legislature requires the county to allow employees to take a leave if needed to run for county office.

Leaves of absence taken in such short time increments as Shurtleff is taking them are very unusual, and Shurtleff's opponents say his close professional and political relationship with Short has resulted in Short bending the rules for him.

Nevertheless, the county's director of personnel, Felix McGowan, signs off on what Shurtleff's doing, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

"It's not desirable that it be in hour or day increment types of things," he said. "I think the intent of the statute was to take it in chunks of a week or two or more. However, management always has the discretion to grant leave without pay under those circumstances. If Doug has authorized it, I'm not going to challenge it.. . . That's the administrator's call."