County Council members set public hearing on officials’ salaries

Members of the Cache County Council voted Tuesday to set a Jan. 25 public hearing on the issue of 2022 salaries for county elected officials.

CACHE COUNTY – After an embarrassing reversal of a December vote on 2022 salary levels for elected officials, the members of the Cache County Council are cautiously proceeding at a snail’s pace to address that issue.

At the first public meeting of the council in 2022 on Tuesday, the members of the council voted to set a public hearing on the salary issue at their next meeting on Jan. 25.

Under state law, the council will not be free to vote again on the salary issue until after that public hearing is conducted.

The news of the need for that “do-over” was not accepted gracefully by all members of the council.

“I’m tired of talking about officials’ salaries at meeting after meeting,” said council member Gordon A. Zilles, before asking County Attorney John Luthy to confirm that an additional public hearing on the salary issue was really necessary.

In mid-December, County Council Chair Gina Worthen announced that a Dec. 14 vote on salary levels for county elected officials had been declared null and void on Luthy’s advice.

Worthen explained that members of the county council had mistakenly assumed that previous public hearings on the county’s 2022 budget had provided sufficient opportunity for public comment on officials’ salaries included in that budget.

But the Utah State Code 17-16-14 specifies that “no changes shall be made in existing salaries of county officers until the county legislative body in a county desiring to change existing salaries of county officers shall first hold a public hearing at which all interested persons shall be given an opportunity to be heard.”

After Luthy confirmed the need for a separate public hearing on the salary issue at Tuesday’s meeting, Zilles made a motion setting that hearing for Jan. 25.

“We’ll follow the advice of our legal counsel,” Zilles said reluctantly. “If that’s what he says we have to do, that’s what we’ll do.”

At their previous Dec. 14 meeting, the members of the council had approved salary levels for themselves and other elected officials that had been recommended by the County Compensation Committee earlier that day.

The compensation committee had developed those recommendations after reviewing the average compensation for council members of 3rd Class counties in Utah with forms of government similar to Cache County. That average compensation figure was $34,737 annually, compared to $13,332 for Cache County Council members.

Given that disparity of compensation levels and the fact that no major adjustment of salary levels for Cache council members had been made since 2014, the committee members recommended that compensation for county council members be raised to $16,000 and $20,000 for the council’s chair, plus $100 per month vehicle allowance.

Worthen explained that the council’s abortive vote on Dec. 14 also approved 2022 salary hikes for other county elected officials amounting to $122,000 for County Executive/Surveyor; $107,476 for County Assessor; $146,467 for County Attorney; $104,826 for County Clerk/Auditor; $99,552 for County Recorder; and $99,575 for County Treasurer; and $113,640 for County Sheriff.

Only County Recorder Devron Andersen’s pay would have remained at a 2021 level of about $93,000.

Those newly approved pay scales for county elected officials would have taken effect Jan.1, 2022.

Another vote on the salary issue could take place at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 25 or a subsequent gathering on Feb. 8.

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