The Utah County Commission voted on Wednesday to appoint Peter Brown to a new project coordinator position housed under the commission.

According to his LinkedIn page, Brown has served as a finance manager for Utah County since 2020 and has been responsible for “managing federal grants related to the (COVID-19) pandemic for Utah government.”

The project coordinator position is one of two full-time budget administration positions that the commission approved the creation of on July 14 on a 2-0 vote. Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner abstained from voting on the proposal over concern that it had not been vetted to the degree expected by other county departments.

“So the reason I abstained is because I really just did not appreciate that we make every other department in the county go through an extensive process to add people, yet … the commission was willing to do it expedited for themselves,” Gardner told the Daily Herald last week. “I just didn’t like that it didn’t follow the process that we make every other department in the county follow in order to add a position, but yet when the commission wants to add positions underneath themselves, they’ll cut all the corners and require significantly less.”

But Commissioner Bill Lee pushed back against Gardner’s comments on Wednesday, pointing out that the commission frequently approves staffing plan changes with little or no discussion and arguing that there was nothing “out of line” with how the proposal passed.

The commissioner further argued that there had been discussion between the commissioners “for some time” about the new positions, including in closed meetings.

“So we’ve had dialogue for quite some time on these positions,” he said.

Lee also noted that the commission is the appointing body in the county, “where(as) the department heads are not, and they have to come to the commission for approval.”

“So there’s quite a difference when we go through staffing, either on a department level or on a commission (level), which is different,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Lee asked Human Resources Director Ralf Barnes whether he believed there was anything improper about how the proposal was approved. His answer? “Not really.”

“It may seem unusually quick in this case. (But) I don’t think it’s out of line in regards to the fact that this has happened before,” Barnes said. “It’s always up to the commission, the amount of scrutiny they need to require to make their decision. So that is the variability that I think we see in these cases more than anything.”

Barnes continued, “I do agree that, in this case, it may have seemed like it was fast and maybe the scrutiny level wasn’t there. But you’re right, there was a lot of talk behind the scenes on this one.”

Gardner did not make any objections to the budget administration positions on Wednesday and voted to approve the resolution appointing Brown as project coordinator, which passed unanimously.

Brown’s position is temporary and will not exceed three years in duration, according to the resolution. It will be paid for using American Rescue Plan Act funding and other federal COVID-19 funds.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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