It looks like Utah County voters will be deciding whether to dump 3-member commission form of government

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Utah County Commission Chairman Bill Lee, center, and Commissioner Nathan Ivie hold a commission meeting, Dec. 12, 2017, in Provo. Missing was then-Commissioner Greg Graves, who participated by phone. This was the first Utah County Commission meeting following the release of a sexual harassment complaint and investigation that showed many county employees felt Graves was a bully with an explosive behavior who retaliated against an employee.

Residents of Utah County are all-but-certain to face a vote on their form of government after a proposal to move to a mayor-county council model picked up a second critical nod of support.

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge wrote on his website Wednesday that he would advance the Utah County Good Governance Advisory Board’s recommendation to eliminate the county’s full-time, three-member commission in favor of a seven member part-time council and full-time mayor.

“Whatever timeline the committee decides on in their final report,” Ainge wrote, “I stand ready to send their recommended Mayor-Council plan to the voters.”

Ainge’s position aligns with fellow Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie, a longtime advocate for a new form of county government, and secures the two-member majority needed to move the governance issue to voters.

The county’s third commissioner, Bill Lee, said Wednesday he would need to review the information from the advisory board before committing to a position.

“Changing the form of government is a serious matter,” Lee said. “That’s the reason why we formed the good governance board.”

A group of residents had also begun collecting petition signatures in order to place the government model question on the ballot in the absence of a vote of the commission. But they have suspended that effort to see if the commission will move forward.

Ainge wrote that while he respects the petition sponsors, he was not ready to add his signature in the first months after his election to the commission last year. But he supported the creation of the good governance board and is now prepared to approve its recommendations.

“There is a lot of work to do between now and [a public vote], and we still await the final details,” Ainge wrote. “But it is clear to me that Utah County residents will have the opportunity to vote to initiate this change for our county’s long-term future.”

Under the advisory board recommendations — which have not yet been formally presented to the commission — five council members would be elected to represent districts within the county, with another two council member elected at-large.

The board was expected to present their recommendations next week, but is being reconvened to approve the final details of their report, including whether the public vote should occur during a special election this year or be delayed until the regular county elections in 2020.

“Either way, the commission needs to act immediately,” said Cameron Martin, the advisory board’s chairman.

Martin said he expects the board to complete its work and present to the commission by the end of the month.

Lee said he’s heard from constituents who worry that a vote in 2019 would be rushing the issue. Waiting until 2020, he said, would provide more time for discussion as well as benefit from the increased voter turnout of a presidential election cycle.

“It would naturally seem to me like it would fit in a 2020 election year,” Lee said.

On Wednesday, Ivie told The Tribune’s “Trib Talk” podcast that the current commission form of government invests too much power in individual representatives without appropriate checks and balances.

A council-mayor form of government can better represent the different communities within Utah county, Ivie said, while mitigating the potential for a bad actor to disrupt the flow of good government.

“There’s too much consolidated power in the three kings of that [commission] form of government,” he said.

Return to Story