MORGAN -- Many decisions the Morgan County Council has made lately regarding filling the vacant council administrator position have been made outside the "sunshine" of public view, say the county attorney and some residents.
Resident Debbie Sessions has gone as far as to say the council has been violating state open and public meeting laws.
"I am disappointed with the apparent disregard of Utah's Open and Public Meetings Act by the county council," she said during the public comment period of Tuesday's council meeting.
Sessions was referring to a Sept. 28 work session of the council, elected officials and county department heads meant to gather input on what job description to advertise in case the council moved forward to fill the vacancy.
The meeting, however, revealed that a majority of those involved did not support filling the position.
"That meeting was held in a sincere effort to gather information, to quantify the job description," said Council Chairman Sid Creager. "Instead, we got a significant amount of negative feedback."
County Attorney Jann Farris criticized council members for not giving more details about the work session in the official meeting notice.
"You advertised it as a work session and only a work session," Farris said. "Be more specific. (Have) government in the sunshine, people."
"It is unfortunate that no description of topics to be discussed was listed. It was apparent, however, that those involved knew the purpose of the meeting," said Sessions, who attended the Sept. 28 meeting where no consensus to fill the vacancy was reached.
"Whether intentional or not, the citizens of Morgan County were left in the dark regarding the purpose and intent of the meeting."
Despite objections from many county department heads and elected officials, the job position was posted two days after the work meeting. It was the same day 43 criminal counts were filed in 2nd District Court against former Council Administrator Garth Day.
"It came as a surprise," Sessions said of the posting.
Creager said he authorized advertising the position only after securing approval from all other council members over the phone.
"Using the excuse that it was an administrative decision and, therefore, didn't require a public vote is nonsense. Administrative decisions are routinely placed on the agenda and voted on in public meetings," Sessions said.
"Administrative decisions that will require the expenditure of county funds must be discussed and voted on in public. We as a public have a right to hear the deliberations of our elected officials."
Sessions also questioned the council's decision to discuss the vacancy during a Sept. 21 closed executive session.
By law, meetings can be closed to the public for "discussion of the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of an individual."
"Closing a meeting for a personnel matter was apparently abused in this case. I feel the council misconstrued the law," Sessions said.
"Deciding whether or not to staff a position clearly is not covered by definition nor would it jeopardize the ongoing investigation."
During the executive session, the council decided to move forward with hiring a new administrator. Emphasis was placed on the votes of the three council members who would remain on the council following November's election: Tina Kelley, Rodney Haslam and Howard Hansen. Haslam has since resigned from the council.
According to plentiful public comments in the Oct. 5 council meeting, many residents don't want the council to fill the vacancy yet.
"All of this public angst could have been alleviated if the council had waited just a few days and had this item properly advertised on the agenda and the decision made in public view," Sessions said.
"All the public wanted was the council to slow down, take deep breaths and proceed with caution."