MORGAN -- Questions regarding the legality of county employees also filling elected positions are swirling after one county employee was among those who applied to fill a vacancy on the Morgan County Council.
Fred Jacobson, Jim Jones and Ronda Kippen applied to serve on the council for the remaining two years of Councilman Rodney Haslam's seat after he resigned for medical reasons.
The council will announce the appointment at a special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
Kippen, a lifelong county resident and planning administrative assistant in the Morgan County Planning and Development Services Department, said she doesn't plan to resign from her full-time position if she is appointed to the council.
The county attorney and at least one council member agree that Kippen's employment with the county does not disqualify her from applying.
"Legal opinions were sought from our county attorney's office and the State Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor's offices. Their opinion is that Ms. Kippen can continue in her pursuit to become a member of the County Council and, if selected, can continue in her current role as a county employee," Councilman Don Mathews said.
Kippen is not the first county employee to express interest in a council seat.
On Nov. 2, county employee Austin Turner will challenge the incumbent, Mathews, for the District 5 council seat. Turner is a paid on-call volunteer for the county's ambulance crew.
"They can run for office," County Attorney Jann Farris said of both Kippen and Turner. "If appointed, they would have to deal with conflicts of interest. It will cause some headaches."
While Kippen would not comment on whether her appointment would lead to conflicts of interest, Turner said that if appointed, he would recuse himself from voting on any ambulance-related items, including the ambulance budget.
He predicts only a couple of recusals each year due to his employment with the county, but predicted Kippen's would be much more significant.
"Ronda would have to recuse from voting 50 to 75 percent of the time," Turner said.
"I would recommend she not vote on anything she participates in" as a member of the planning department, Farris said, "Her department prepares things that come before the council. Ronda is a big participant of what appears on the agenda. She would miss out on a lot of voting."
Farris also said that if elected to the council, Kippen would technically become the boss of her boss, Grant Crowell, Planning and Development Services Department director.
But Crowell doesn't seem to mind.
"Ronda Kippen has been an asset to the Morgan County organization from the day she was hired (in February)," Crowell said. "In my opinion, the additional service to the county as a council member would not conflict with the high level of professionalism and ethical standards she is committed to providing the citizens of the county."