Debate could ‘isolate’ Richer from Democrats | ParkRecord.com

Debate could ‘isolate’ Richer from Democrats

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer is a Democrat from Snyderville who hopes voters agree with him in November that the county must be governed differently.

He expects a bipartisan political action committee to form on the West Side to raise awareness about a ballot proposition that would replace the three-member commission with five county councilors and a hired manager.

Most of the members of the Summit County Democratic Party Central Committee who met Monday in Jeremy Ranch, however, oppose changing the form of government. They claim a group of citizens charged by voters with studying the issue failed to determine how much hiring a manager to oversee daily operations in the County Courthouse would cost.

"When you can’t tell people what they’re buying and what it’s going to cost, then I think it’s unfair," Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said.

More than 60 percent of the electorate in 2004 supported forming the seven-person committee to study whether the form of government should change. The group recommended the council/manager option for Summit County.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders stopped short of taking a stand on the issue.

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"The proposal that we have is not a perfect proposal and I’m going to try to stay out of the discussion," first-time Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott said, before successfully sponsoring a motion to table the discussion until June 5. "It’s very important that we each make our own individual statements if we choose to do so and that the Democratic Party stay out of the issue."

Elliott insisted, however, that County Democratic Party chair Rob Weyher should apologize to Richer "for money that somehow managed to get from [Weyher’s] pocket to Bob’s opponent’s pocket."

"One of [Weyher’s] duties as the Summit County Democratic Party chair should be to support Summit County Democratic candidates," Elliott said, adding that she plans to seek a second term on the commission in 2008. "What he does should reflect favorably upon our candidates."

Weyher, who is adamantly opposed to changing the form of government, has contributed at least $250 to a political action committee called Less is Best hoping the group can help defeat the ballot proposal.

On behalf of the group, the organizer of Less is Best, former County Democratic Party chair Mike Marty, has already contributed money to Richer’s opponent, Woodland Republican Bill Miles, who is opposed to changing county government.

"If I had chose to I had overwhelming votes to make that the position of the Democratic Party," Weyher said during an interview following Monday’s meeting. "I chose not to."

Committee members initially voted 5-4 not to table a decision.

"You can read that however you want, you saw that it was a very close vote," Weyher said, claiming that proxies from three people that weren’t submitted would have swayed the debate his way.

Richer said he purposely did not attend the Central Committee meeting when reached Tuesday.

"This is just politics," he said after learning recently about the contribution Weyher may have indirectly given to Richer’s Republican opponent.

Weyher plans to contribute $5,000 to Less is Best, but wrote a personal check Monday to Richer’s campaign for $1,000.

But he would rather voters defeat Richer in November than support the proposal to change the form of government, Weyher said.

"It’s a very cost-ineffective form of government, it’s a very dictator-heavy form of government," said Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier, who also serves on the Democratic Party Central Committee. "I think it’s a horrific form of government."

A vote next month by Democratic Party brass to oppose the change "may isolate" Richer from the party, Weyher said.

"I’m not out to get Bob Richer," he said, adding, "I think that’s an unfortunate consequence. But I think Bob Richer put himself in that position."

Richer, however, claims his re-election bid has bipartisan support.

Park City resident Gill Blonsley wouldn’t comment this week about a committee that might form on the West Side to promote the proposed government change.

Other high-profile Democrats also support the ballot measure.

"I wanted to have a resolution in support of the form of governance change at the [county convention]," County Democratic Central Committee member Patrick Cone said during a telephone interview Monday. "I think we could take a stand on it."