Controversial Party chair is out | ParkRecord.com

Controversial Party chair is out

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Democrats in Summit County replaced their controversial leader who was accused last year of assaulting an officer, driving while intoxicated and attempting to bribe a candidate to withdraw from a race.

At the Summit County Democratic Party organizing convention Saturday in Park City, delegates chose Coalville resident Laura Bonham to replace outgoing Democratic Party chairman Rob Weyher, who emerged in the past two years as one of the county’s most colorful political figures.

"Controversy is not all bad," Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi, a Democrat, told convention goers at Park City Mountain Resort while rushing to Weyher’s defense.

But Oakley Democrat Patrick Cone says Weyher’s embarrassing antics kept party faithful from unifying.

"We want to move this party forward, considering how [Weyher] has been acting we’ll see how loud of a voice he has," Cone said taking a shot at the former chairman. "[Horiuchi] is doing damage control for Rob. I thought that was a sideshow."

But Weyher claimed he didn’t know Horiuchi would gush about him at the convention.

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Last spring some Democrats criticized Weyher for allegedly damaging the campaign of Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, a fellow Democrat.

"People who have been officers in the Democratic Party have actively worked against the Democratic candidates," Cone charged. "We have people in office who play both sides and use the party as a convenience."

In his keynote speech, Horiuchi praised Weyher for bringing attention to local Democrats.

"It is a party chairman’s job to raise the consensus and to get the people thinking about public issues," Horiuchi said. "If you don’t, you have apathy and if you have apathy, you lose."

Democrats in Summit County protect the environment and a woman’s right to choose, he said.

"It is a county that continues to disdain the Iraqi war and disdain the demagoguery of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Vice President Dick Cheney," Horiuchi said.

Meanwhile, those who voted to change the form of government in Summit County from a three-person commission to a five-member council with an appointed manager made a mistake, Horiuchi said.

"Will your government blow up? Will it fold? Will it go bankrupt? Probably not," Horiuchi explained.

But pointing to the controversy that dogged former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, and so-called "guzzlegate," which saw staffers at Salt Lake County steal gas, Horiuchi stressed that expanding the commission to nine people and electing a mayor in Salt Lake didn’t cut government scandal.

"The last seven years compare that with a hundred years of the previous County Commission," Horiuchi said. "They’re about equal."

A three-member board would have quickly resolved the controversy that involved building a soccer stadium with tax dollars when the nine councilors and mayor only muddled the "monstrous" issue, he claimed.

Plus, the new form of government is more expensive for taxpayers, Horiuchi said.

"We now spend three times the amount of money for government as we did before," he said.

The budget in the mayor’s office under "Workman’s regime" bloated, Horiuchi said.

Partly because the form of government changed, the Utah Legislature "hates" Salt Lake County, Horiuchi said.

"We are the target of death by the Legislature," he said blaming the new form of government for a slew of lobbying that occurs on behalf of Salt Lake County on Capitol Hill. "We’re all saying different stuff and they get confused."

Politics in Salt Lake are more divisive and partisan since the change, he added.

"We have had more partisanness in the last seven years than we have had in the history of Salt Lake County government," Horiuchi said.

Since the change in the form of government the county’s relationships with municipalities on the Wasatch Front is at "the lowest point in the history of Salt Lake County," he said.

When Summit County’s new form of government takes effect in 2009, most powers that voters now bestow on the Summit County Commission will go to a manager not elected by voters, Horiuchi warned.

"We have taken in this form of government, 90 percent of the responsibility of government from three commissioners and have given it to one guy," he said, adding that "one guy has 90 percent of the power."

But the debate is over about whether to change the form of government in Summit County, Cone countered.

"I think [Horiuchi] missed an opportunity to talk about the future and not the past," said Cone, who criticized the entrenched politician from the Wasatch Front.

The new form of government lessens the stranglehold career politicians like Horiuchi have on county government, Cone said, adding, that "maybe that is what a lot of people did like about it."

"I listen to Randy, but it’s just his opinion," Cone said, adding that some people left the convention during Horiuchi’s remarks.

Others reportedly called his comments "insulting."

"There was some clamor (in the crowd)," Cone said.

Local Democratic leaders elected by delegates at the organizing convention included: vice chairwoman for Park City Joanna Charnes, vice chairwoman for North Summit Sue Follett, vice chairwoman for South Summit Tonya Hanson, secretary Tania Knauer and treasurer Blake Frazier.