Citizens initiate process to change county form of government
by Charli Engelhorn
staff writer
Apr 12, 2012 | 2848 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Four local citizens recently submitted a petition to begin the process of changing Grand County’s form of government. Jeramey McElhaney, Dave Cozzens, Leon Behunin, and Pat Byrd collected 462 signatures and turned in the petition to the Grand County Clerk’s office last month. The action is the first requirement for a citizen-initiated effort to begin the process, said Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll.

Changing the form of county government involves a lengthy process that requires several steps and multiple voter-approved measures. According to documents provided by Carroll, the first step required is either a resolution from the Grand County Council or a signature petition from citizens asking the county to hold a special election in which voters will decide whether to ask the county to “appoint a study committee to consider a change in form of [c]ounty government.”

“There was a lot of dissatisfaction about the way the council was put together when the form of government changed 20 years ago, and there is more now,” said Cozzens. “Our form of government is not currently legal in the state of Utah, and the elimination of party involvement is not legal anymore.”

Carroll said the petition was verified and approved by her department, and the issue will be placed on the June 26 primary ballot. If voters do not approve the measure, the process is ended. If the measure is approved, the county council must begin the state-mandated process to form an appointment committee, which will, in turn, appoint the study committee.

Once the study committee is formed, its members will develop a recommendation after researching issues related to the current form of government and other forms of government now allowed through state statute. The Grand County Attorney must then review the recommendation for legal issues and approve a final recommendation. At that point, the council must either pass a resolution to put the proposed change before voters in the next election year, or citizens may file a petition to put the issue before voters, according to the documents provided by Carroll.

This election is required to be held the following November if Election Day is at least two months away. If not, the question is held until the next November election, which could be either an odd or even-numbered year according to information provided by Carroll. If the voters choose to adopt the plan, newly elected officials will be chosen at the next November election held in an even-numbered year, when county elections occur. The new form of government would take effect the following Jan. 1.

Cozzens said he and the other three petitioners decided to get the ball rolling on the process because they feel the current form of government is not representative of the community.

“The county is too small for the number of people on the council. There are so many people that the town can’t come up with enough candidates to run,” Cozzens said. “Every election we have uncontested races, which leaves irresponsible and less desirable people on the council. Everyone’s always talking about sustainability, but the biggest unsustainable thing we have in this community is our council. We’re spending magnitudes more money than is necessary.”

Cozzens said he and the other petitioners haven’t looked at which other form of government would be the most desirable, but he is hoping someone from the group will be put on the study committee to be part of the conversation.

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