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Richer’s actions ‘deceitful,’ colleague claims

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

An exchange Monday between Summit County Commissioners Ken Woolstenhulme and Bob Richer could mark the beginning of a testy, 2-year transition to a new form of county government.

Passage last month of Proposition 1 means in 2008 citizens will vote to replace the three-member County Commission with a county council comprised of five representatives.

Woolstenhulme, who is against the change, predicted recently that Prop. 1 would be "the downfall of Summit County."

"Mark my words," he said.

The cost of government will increase significantly with five councilors heading the legislative and a manager overseeing the county’s executive functions, Prop. 1’s opponents say. Commissioners act currently as both branches of government.

While debating next year’s budget of nearly $50 million, Woolstenhulme this week insisted the County Commission officially set salaries for new councilors at $1 per year.

"I would suggest that the commission in the next few years accept that ($1) salary that was recommended," Woolstenhulme said.

Though Proposition 1 declares councilors would earn a salary of only $1 per year, Richer, who supported the ballot measure, says, "I don’t think that salary will remain at one dollar."

"I don’t think anybody was ever anticipating that," he told Woolstenhulme.

Instead, Prop. 1 sets annual salaries for councilors at $1 to allow the new representatives to decide their own pay.

Woolstenhulme blamed Richer for scuttling an early draft of the ballot measure that pushed for councilors to earn $17,000 per year.

"When it came back for the final draft it was one dollar instead of $17,000," Woolstenhulme said. "Bob, you were not happy with $17,000."

This week Richer denied that he privately met with Park City resident Eric Easterly, who chaired the committee that recommended the government change, about axing the proposal for $17,000 salaries for councilors.

"[Richer] met with Eric Easterly and then it came back to the committee," Woolstenhulme charged.

Richer, however, insists he met only with the committee as a whole.

"What’s done is done and we’re going to have to make the best of it, but, that was most deceitful," said Woolstenhulme about the alleged meeting.

Rushing to Richer’s defense, however, County Commissioner Sally Elliott declared, "It was all done in the clear, cool light of day."

"I don’t think it was deceitful at all," she added.


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