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County Commission looks at separating Clerk/Auditor’s office

By Genelle Pugmire - | Dec 2, 2021

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Josh Daniels, then-Utah County deputy clerk/auditor, speaks during a town hall meeting concerning the 2020 budget and the proposed tax increase held Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, at the Utah County Health and Justice Building in Provo.

In 1989, Utah County Commissioners voted to combine the Utah County Clerk and Utah County Auditor’s offices into one department, with one department head.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Tom Sakievich proposed dividing the departments again. Currently the two departments are directed by Josh Daniels. Daniels replaced Amelia Powers Gardner who was the Clerk/Auditor before taking former Commissioner Tanner Ainge’s place earlier this year.

Sakievich said that he had been working on the issue for the past 13 months, prior to his election to the commission.

“The idea is to bring back one position,” Sakievich said. He said the rapid growth in the county warrants the division in departments.

The Clerk/Auditor’s office handles everything from formulating budget proposals to running the elections. The list is extremely long and can be easily sorted between the two entities of clerk and auditor, according to Sakievich.

He is hoping to get things into place prior to the next presidential election in 2024.

“We can have a separation into two offices and use the same equipment,” Sakievich noted. “This is the ideal time.”

Seemingly it is not a matter of if, but when, that separation should occur.

“All three of us believe the Clerk/Auditor (department) should be investigated,” said Commissioner Bill Lee.

There are differing opinions as to the costs involved in getting it done. Gardner believes it will cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” while Sakievich said there is enough personnel on staff now to run both. They would use the same chairs, computers and desks.

“This is not fully thought through,” Gardner said. She asked about the need for a deputy position as well as separated offices.

“We can’t have two officials fighting over employees,” Gardner said. “We have efficiency already built in.”

Gardner would like to see a guided path to the decision with it being placed on the 2026 ballot.

About 10 members of the public took the microphone to share their opinions. In all cases they were for the separation of the departments, with ethics and conflicts of interest being the focal points.

“I’m in favor of splitting these two,” said Christie Henshaw. “Principle more than staffing is the issue. There is a conflict of interest.”

“I feel they should be separate. No one should combine with the auditor, it’s hard to be objective and there would be greater efficiency,” said Cathy Hindmarsh.

One resident noted that it would be impossible to have a fair audit of the election if the clerk is the one running the elections, the auditor is responsible for auditing the election and they are the same person.

Gardner noted that some of the public were confused as to who audits the elections. In the budget passed earlier Wednesday, the commission eliminated the elections security auditor’s position.

After some discussion on the matter, Lee said he was not prepared to cast a vote. He did ask for an informal group of staff to come together, examine office space options, legal requirements and costs and come back to next week’s meeting with those answers.

“I am in favor of looking at the split, but I want to make sure we’ve rounded all the corners,” Lee said.

“Don’t do this half-assed,” Gardner said. “And see if we have a budget for it. We need to have the funding.”

Gardner, who knows exactly what happens in the Clerk/Auditor’s office, said it would take up to $1 million in ongoing funding and approximately $800,000 in one time funding to correctly do what Sakievich is proposing.

Sakievich believes there would be only one new wage of $120,000 plus benefits.

Gardner said there is nothing broken in the department. Touting the accomplishments during her time in the office, just on elections the county went from being called the “epicenter of dysfunction” to being regarded as one of the most well-run elections offices in the state.

In the end, the commission did take Lee’s advice and postponed the discussion for one week. They will have a work session on the item and discuss it in the regular commission meeting.


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