WEST BOUNTIFUL -- The assignment of Councilwoman Debbie McKean to accept a research project in place of City Recorder Bev Haslam, who was in Poland for several weeks, drew fire from other council members.
The city recently received a request from its legal counsel to research 70 items for pending litigation. McKean volunteered to help complete the task while Haslam was gone, for payment of $12.50 per hour.
Councilwoman Valerie Shaw voiced her opposition at a recent meeting.
"I think it looks like major conflict of interest, because it looks like we're paying for a job and giving it to someone on the city council instead of advertising it. I'm sure there are many of our citizens who would want to apply for that job," she said.
Councilman James Bruhn said, "Currently, Debbie is just hired to help with this list of items to help us get it through our attorneys (since she's already familiar with the case). This isn't for any long-term or assistant job. It's just temporary for this specific job."
City Administrator Craig Howe said in an interview that a temp agency would charge $20 an hour, and a new person would require substantial time and energy to inform and train. He said the matter required rapid action and was logically assigned.
The city plans to advertise soon to hire an assistant city recorder.
Haslam is expected to retire, although Howe said he does not know when.
McKean said she did not accept the task in an effort to gain favor and consideration for the new position.
"I know the city recorder is an appointed position, appointed by the mayor. Just for the record, I'm doing this to help the city, not anticipating a future job. (The compensation) is a minimal fee. I'm not trying to gouge the city or make anything happen that shouldn't happen."
Shaw explained her concerns.
"I think it's a major conflict of interest to be paid to be on the city council, paid to do the minutes and paid for a city project like this. It's just too much to be involved in and I'm opposed to that. I want to go on record as saying I disagree with this," she said.
Several members of the council said they were merely opposed to money from the city budget being allotted without their prior knowledge.
Councilwoman Cheryl Searle said her main concern over the new position was funding.
"Where will the money come from the budget? We already have so much allotted already," she said.
Searle said she enthusiastically approved of McKean's skills and values, but advised city staff to proceed cautiously.
"I just think we have to be very careful with situations like this. We need open communication between the public and the council. It's not a question of anyone's ethics or integrity or workability," she said.
Bruhn reiterated the job's purpose: "When it's done, this job will disappear and we'll begin looking for an assistant city recorder."