Politico may receive financial windfall
January 10, 2009
He no longer works for the government but Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme might still receive a regular paycheck.
The form of government in Summit County changed this week after voters two years ago favored a five-person council/manager model over a three-person county commission.
Still, Woolstenhulme, who staunchly opposed the change, had two years left to serve when the Summit County Council was sworn in Wednesday. Woolstenhulme did not campaign for a seat on the new panel.
But state law allows him to receive his $64,000 annual salary through 2010.
"I’m thinking seriously right now about taking it If I do it, that’s why I would do it," Woolstenhulme said about his opposition to the government change. "I wasn’t in favor of it, and I fought against it."
He said he would likely begin donating his paychecks to charities operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Primary Children’s Medical Center.
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Though he no longer works for the county, Woolstenhulme said those who supported changing the form of government were aware he was considering staying on the payroll when they voted in 2006.
His recent County Commission stint began with his defeat of incumbent Summit County Commissioner Patrick Cone in a Democratic primary election in 2002.
"I’d never heard anything about [Woolstenhulme] keeping his unearned money before the vote for the council change," Cone said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I’m always of the opinion that if you get paid for something you should probably do that work."
Woolstenhulme said the cost of expanding to a five-person council and hiring a county manager was part of the reason he opposed the change.
"It’s not right This is one expense he is going to add to it," Cone said about $128,000 Woolstenhulme could receive in the next two years. "It’s unfortunate, especially because of the economic times, that that money won’t be used for the good of the county. We’re cutting back up there and I think this would be a significant chunk of change."
But charities also struggle financially, Woolstenhulme countered, adding that he hasn’t decided whether to receive the money.
"This is taxpayer money. If Ken is going to take that money maybe we can find something for him to do for the next two years at the county," Cone said. "I don’t think the (LDS) Church is hurting too badly right now."
Woolstenhulme’s political colleague, former Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, said he won’t receive any more paychecks from the government.
"It just reflects poorly on [Woolstenhulme,]" Cone said. "To say that he is going to punish the county because of a vote of the people, I don’t think that is a very good plan."
Several years ago the form of government similarly changed in Salt Lake County and former Salt Lake County Commissioner Mary Callahan opted for continued pay, Cone said.
"I remember when Mary Callahan did it in Salt Lake County, and then she left town," he said.
But Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson didn’t criticize Woolstenhulme for wanting the money.
"As far as I can tell, by law, he is entitled to it," Robinson said. "I don’t think he needs to say what he wants to do with the money."
Meanwhile, benefits are not part of Woolstenhulme’s compensation package, said Brian Bellamy, interim Summit County Manager.
"It’s just a straight salary deal," Bellamy said. "It’s his choice and he can do it because you’re elected for the full term. If I had my choice, I wouldn’t take it."