OGDEN — The Weber County clerk-auditor isn't the highest profile elected post in government.
That doesn't mean it's not important and voters shouldn't pay attention, says Ricky Hatch, the Republican incumbent seeking his third term in the spot in Nov. 6 elections. He cites his efforts to increase government transparency, keep close tabs on government spending and focus on customer service.
"It's not the sexiest position, but it really is crucial. The clerk-auditor handles your money and your vote," said Hatch.
Democratic challenger John Thompson touts what he says would be his efforts to serve as watchdog on things like the controversial perk that lets elected county leaders get a payout on leaving office equal to up to five years of health benefits. The benefit, approved by county commissioners in 2014 and to be gradually phased out per commission action in August, is "completely inappropriate and wrong," Thompson said.
The clerk-auditor oversees county spending and manages elections. County commissioners actually have final say on spending, but the clerk-auditor helps in preparation of the county budget each year, offering input and guidance. The office also processes property owners' appeals of their assessed valuations, a key figure in determining property taxes, and helps qualified taxpayers apply for property tax relief, Hatch said.
Attention to the county's stormwater drainage system, building maintenance and county employee salaries had been lacking, Hatch said, and he increased the focus on such things after he first took office in 2011. "I like the continued emphasis on sound fiscal management. By that, I mean taking care of problems before they become a crisis," he said, thus saving money by precluding the need for big-ticket fixes later on.
Government transparency is also big for Hatch, and he noted creation earlier this year of a hotline to give the public a means to report suspected incidents of government fraud, waste and abuse in Weber County. His office gets leads "quite often," though frequently the suspected misdeeds turn out to be misunderstandings about government functioning.
Hatch, of Ogden, has also put a premium on customer service. He had a background in the private sector in finances and accounting before becoming clerk-auditor.
Thompson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, has run, unsuccessfully, for many posts — Ogden City Council, Ogden mayor, Weber County Commission and Ogden School Board, he said. He's retired and last worked in child support collection for the Utah Department of Human Services' Office of Recovery Services.
When he runs for office, challenging an incumbent, it's not necessarily out of displeasure with the officeholder.
"I feel like no office, no elective office, should go unopposed regardless of your party," he said. From what he hears, Hatch is "doing a very good job."
He sees the clerk-auditor office's big function as keeping tabs on how government is operating. Aside from the commissioners' health-benefit perk, he pointed to the scandal in the Weber County Sheriff's Office over an employee who pled guilty last week to consuming drugs seized as evidence in criminal cases. The wrongdoing "should've been picked up," Thompson said, while Hatch said law enforcement associations typically handle auditing in such cases.
Thompson would also push to have a say in policies and changes sought by county commissioners, who handle legislative and executive functions for the county.