Thomas "made whole" for time spent on the Hill Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff
Summit County is facing multiple, development-related lawsuits and one of the architects of the government’s legal defense team has been a state senator since 2003.
A Davis County resident, state Sen. David Thomas, R-South Weber, has represented Davis and Weber County on Utah’s Capitol Hill since 2003. So, for about 45 days between January and March, Thomas, the county’s chief civil deputy attorney, is mostly away from the Coalville Courthouse serving the needs of his constituents who live on the Wasatch Front.
To compensate taxpayers for lost time, the county docks Thomas’ pay for his time on the Hill, Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier said.
"He gets his legislative salary and we lower his wage here for the difference," Frazier said. "He’s made whole."
Former Summit County Commissioner Patrick Cone helped negotiate Thomas’ salary arrangement.
Utah Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, a Republican, was tied recently to a case of alleged "double dipping," Cone said.
Questions were raised about whether Curtis had been paid twice by taxpayers for serving on the Hill and as an adviser to Salt Lake County government. "We saw that coming," Cone said adding that the deal was a "straight-forward thing." "We even talked about it as [Thomas] was running," he added.
Commissioners, however, were not concerned about Thomas double dipping.
"It was more, ‘Gee, you’re not going to be here,’" Cone said. "We wanted to make sure that Summit County people were getting their money’s worth."
Commissioners felt having an employee on the Hill would be a benefit for Summit County, he added.
"Even though it’s not our constituency, it’s real important," Cone said. "I don’t think he’s ever run a bill for Summit County."
But Thomas is not required to work as a legislator for the county, he said, adding, "it’s not like we sent him to run."
"Dave’s very sharp, and he’s logical," Cone said. Among the Utah legislators who have other careers in the public sector is Republican state Sen. Beverly Evans, who represents Park City and Snyderville. As a part-time employee in program development for Utah State University, Evans is paid roughly $38,000 per year, a USU personnel clerk said.
"I work every day that I’m not in the Legislature," said Evans, who serves as the Senate’s assistant majority whip. "I only work a part-time contract (at USU)."
She reportedly receives benefits from the university but no overtime pay. According to the county’s personnel director, Brian Bellamy, Thomas is paid between 69,472 and 97,635 per year. Thomas was not immediately available for comment before press time. "In all honesty, it’s a benefit to a county or municipality … if they represent your city or county," Frazier said. "I think it’s a fair arrangement.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.