New Utah County Attorney planning big changes for office 02

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt poses for a portrait at his office Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

For the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, it’s felt like recent years has provided one more road bump after another — with many inextricably tied to the County Commission.

Those with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office who served in some form or fashion in public safety and retired in the last 20 years are missing out on yet-to-be-released, significant pension payments from the Utah County government.

Apparently a still-unknown individual discovered the mistake 10 years ago and the department still doesn’t know why absolutely nothing was done to correct the lack of funding.

“For those employees who were scheduled to work more than 80 hours in a 14 day pay-period, Utah County Government was supposed to have been making contributions to URS based on those scheduled hours of work. Utah County Government was, for many years, only making contributions based on 80 scheduled hours of work in a 14 day pay period,” a press release states.

We’re sure the hundreds and hundreds of county workers in the past 20 years who were cut short of their benefits thus far appreciate Utah County Attorney David Leavitt’s comments this week.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s right,” he said. “No one should be left out of their retirement.”

The county’s relatively new sheriff, Mike Smith, was reported to have acted with the county’s human resources to rectify the current situation soon after he was sworn into office in August, so as to correct contributions moving forward.

How this wasn’t the response 10 years ago when it came to the attention of leaders seems beyond absurd and neglectful. In 10 years, the county has now had eight different commissioners elected to oversee operations: Gary Anderson, Larry Ellertson, Steve White, Doug Witney, Bill Lee, Greg Graves, Nathan Ivie and most recently Tanner Ainge. Former Sheriff Jim Tracy served for 16 years.

The black mark is on the county. However, unlike other statements made, we believe it is also and ultimately a black mark on those who have led it. If not, then who is responsible for such blatant oversight?

Our local agencies already face current market challenges with competitive pay and a current world that is hyper-aware of use of force and proper conduct. The last thing we need to do is skimp out on retirement due to firefighters, detectives, dispatchers, bailiffs and deputies that have put in a full career.

The next hurdle will be for the county government to figure out how much it owes in 20 years worth of missed retirement contributions — which will be significantly more cumbersome than if had it been carried out correctly to begin with or even fixed 10 years ago when county government had an opportunity.

Leavitt’s hopefully ensuing investigation should then shed light on the accountability that must come next.