Utah open meeting laws ignored in county administrator hiring decision
May 08, 2019 | 5441 views | 0 0 comments | 159 159 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 8, 2019

David Everitt has been hired as the interim county administrator for San Juan County after an action at the May 7 County Commission meeting that is in apparent violation of Utah open meetings law.

With a 2-1 vote, Everitt was extended a contract that will reimburse him $5,763 every two weeks with a requirement that he spend at least two days a week on site in Monticello.

Everitt will fill in for Kelly Pehrson, who resigned as county administrator on April 25 to accept a position as the Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Agriculture.

On May 1, Pehrson started his new position. The new job is based in Salt Lake City.

Pehrson signaled a willingness to help San Juan County through the transition process of finding a new administrator, but he was not in attendance at the May 7 Commission meeting.

While the contract with Everitt was a discussion item on the work meeting agenda, it was not listed as an action item on the regular Commission meeting agenda.

Under Utah open meetings law, an item must be posted as an action item in order to be approved.

During the work session, Commissioner Willie Grayeyes asked to address the issue as an action item.

“What I am trying to do is to move this to an action item for today,” said Grayeys. “On an interim basis, there should be no question about it.”

After a county resident stated that state law doesn’t allow such an action, Grayeyes responded, “The law can be contested.”

Despite the concern, Commissioners approved the contract by a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Bruce Adams opposing.

Adams said, “This is a process, that in my opinion, verges on illegal.”

There was an uproar over the process to hire Everitt, with pointed questions from Commissioner Adams.

“I would have liked to visit with Mr. Everritt before now,” said Adams. “How did he apply? Where did he hear about this?”

Adams outlined the San Juan County policy to fill such a position through the Human Resources department. Adams said the process would include advertising the position, forming a selection committee that would interview prospective candidates, and making a hiring recommendation to the Commissioners.

“Lets go through the process and if he is selected, I would welcome him with open arms,” said Adams. “As it was, I was left out of the process.”

Everitt said that he was told about the position by a member of the Moab City Council and had then contacted Commissioner Maryboy.

Everitt stated that he had met with Commissioners Maryboy and Grayeyes to discuss the issue, but added that he had not met with Commissioner Adams about the position.

Everitt stated that a management position, such as county administrator, is not a career services position and does not need to follow standard civil service processes.

“You are not obligated to go through a formal (hiring) process,” said Everitt.

“I wonder what the negotiation process was and why I wasn’t included,” said Adams.

Pehrson’s base pay was $88,000 in 2018, with a total compensation, including benefits, of $124,000, according to the Utah Public Finance website.

Everitt’s contract would be approximately $150,000 on an annual basis.

Everitt addressed the commission and answered questions about his background and experience.

Everitt said that the two day a week requirement in the contract is just a minimum requirement and that he intends to be on the job on a full time basis.

“A lot of time working remotely I can get things done,” said Everitt. “I wouldn’t get too hung up on the two day a week portion, even though I understand your concern.”

Everitt said, “I have no intention of applying for this position in the long run.”

“This is a short term deal from my perspective, no matter what,” said Everitt. “A few months at the most.”

Everitt told Commissioners that he decided to leave the Moab position in order to return to Salt Lake City. He said the timeframe to return to the Wasatch Front, in August, remains the same, whether he was working in Moab or for San Juan County.

Everitt became Moab City Manager in 2016 when the city fired their previous city manager.

Before then, he served for eight years in Salt Lake City government, including positions as chief operating officer and chief of staff for Mayor Ralph Becker.

In March, Everitt informed the Moab City Council that he intended to step down as City Manager when his contract expired in August.

On April 8, the Moab City Council announced that Joel Linares, the current assistant city manager, will take over for Everitt.

The Times-Independent reports that Moab City Council members have lauded Everitt for efforts toward steadying city hall, with former mayor Dave Sakrison saying he helped to “stabilize the government” of Moab.

Mike Duncan, a member of the Moab City Council, told Commissioners, “David Everitt is universally regarding as a breath of fresh air. He will be a great asset to San Juan County.”
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