The five sponsors who filed a petition to change Grand County’s form of government would like everyone to move on and not look too closely at the circumstances surrounding their actions and the distrust and chaos it has provoked. In order to protect the integrity of our political process however, it’s crucial that we put their actions into context and call it out for what it is.
In an attempt to control the process, five Republicans from Grand County (Grand County Republican Party Chair Jeramy Day; Lynn Jackson; Jerry McNeely; Gene Ciarus; and Manuel Torres) sponsored a petition to change our county’s form of government, moments after HB 224 was signed into law.
The petition sponsors purport that they alone, a non-elected group with their own political agenda, should initiate the process rather than the democratically elected Grand County Council. The Grand County Council is now forced to ask Utah’s Attorney General to arbitrate the matter. If allowed to initiate the process, the sponsors will have sole authority to choose the seven members of the study committee. This committee will recommend the new form of government that will ultimately be submitted to voters. If they put forth an unpopular recommendation, voters will face a no-win situation. If a new form of government is not approved by Dec. 31, 2020, Grand County defaults to a three member (at-large) county commission form of government, a form that has no support from voters.
There are still many questions about the passage of this bill that citizens deserve answers to. Why didn’t state legislators ask the Grand County Council to weigh in on such a critical mater? Why did Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells lobby Utah state legislators to pass a bill that would make the county’s current form of government obsolete, and find it acceptable not to inform other council members, or include an opinion from the full council on the matter?
The provisions of HB 224 that mandate Grand County change its current form of government were proposed within the last few days of the bill’s passage. Were the five petition sponsors and one council member simply paying closer attention, as they assert, or were they given privileged information?
A genuine democracy requires a level playing field. Grand County citizens should view these moves for what they are: a small partisan group attempting to undermine democratic values by claiming that they simply got to the finish line first while no one else was looking. They claim victory in a race that only one elected official and five petition sponsors knew was even at hand. Grand County voters will remember the underhanded manner in which HB 224 was enacted and vote to elect leaders with integrity and accountability.
Mary Beth Fitzburgh