Five people, ranging from a forensic accountant to the LDS Church's fleet manager, now hold Salt Lake County government in their hands. County employees must talk to them, all documents are theirs to peruse and the ultimate focus of their inquiry is up to them, according to the Salt Lake Tribune
In the wake of a vehicle-use scandal that has tarnished county government, Mayor Nancy Workman announced on June 3 the creation of a "citizens panel" to review and recommend policy and procedure changes. Panel members say they will report their findings in six weeks, and they promise that they will not be censored by county officials.
The panel members include:
Harry L. Jeffs, director of fleet administration for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He manages more than 12,000 vehicles worldwide as well as the church's food services. He previously directed the church's mail operations and worked as a fleet manager. He has an associate of arts degree from the Radio Institute of Technology.
Glen D. Watkins, chairman of the board of directors at Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough. He is licensed to practice in Utah, the District of Columbia and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also is a trustee of the Utah Information Technology Association, and is on the advisory board of Westminster College's Technology and Business section. He received a bachelor's in economics and a juris doctorate from the University of Utah.
Carol L. Hunter, managing director and a vice president of Pacificorp, which operates as Utah Power. She directs the company's economic-development programs and oversees the permit process for generating, distribution and transmission facilities. She also has served on, or is currently part of, several committees, including United Way and Ballet West.
The volunteer members — all leaders in their respective fields — say their mission will be narrowed when they meet, but that improper vehicle use by some top county employees would be part of their inquiry. The panel is charged with looking at the automobile policies, and also policies for travel reimbursement, gifts and cellular telephones.
"We have complete independence," said group member Glen Watkins, chairman of the board at the Salt Lake City law firm of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough.
Workman says she will order employees to cooperate, and that the county will produce any requested documents. "Nothing will be held back," she said. "It's extremely important that everything is made available to them."
Misuse of county vehicles and gas cards, revealed by the Salt Lake Tribune early in May, prompted two top officials to resign and the district attorney to launch a criminal investigation. Former county auditor Craig Sorensen quit after 25 years in office and admitted that he stole gasoline by using his county charge card. He faces a second-degree felony charge of misusing public money.
The panel will probe some of the misuse, Watkins says, but mainly to benchmark how current policies have worked. Workman added that if she disagreed with the group's conclusions, she would explain why, but that the public would know about it. "We're not going to keep it secret."
The mayor, meanwhile, said that while the "buck stops" with her, she owed no apology to the public for the controversy. "I haven't done anything wrong," she said. Meanwhile, Workman said she had not reprimanded her legal counsel, Greg Curtis, who is also the House majority leader, but she may look into doing so. Curtis admitted that he used his county vehicle for at least one personal trip to southern Utah with his family. He also has apologized for what he termed an "oversight" in which he was paid $767 in mileage reimbursement by the state while driving the county-owned-and-fueled SUV for legislative duties. He has since paid the money back.
Workman said she was not "making judgements" about Curtis, but did not answer a reporter's question about whether she still backed him 100 percent.
Sixty county officials, including all nine County Council members, get a monthly vehicle allowance ranging from $550 to $650.