The recent lawsuit over HB224 was filed to protect the interests of voters, not to limit their choice of the form of county government. In 2018, state law mandated Grand County change its form of government because it was out of compliance. Had the option been available to just amend the current plan passed in 1992, Grand County would have done so and avoided the expense of two lawsuits and the time, money and effort of going through the legal process mandated in HB224. But two Utah counties, Morgan and Grand, were deemed out of compliance by the Utah State Legislature and required to either pick one of the four approved forms or revert to a three-person commission.
On August 21, the Grand County Council unanimously voted to accept changes made by the county attorney to all aspects of the original 1992 plan for the Grand County Council, including to section 2.04.090 which, for the past 25-plus years, stated:
It is the intent of this plan to establish the council as a citizen body whose members serve on a part-time basis primarily in a legislative, policy-making role, and membership on the council is not intended to be a full time position involving extensive day to day administrative oversight of county operations and functions.
The new language added by the county attorney changed the word “council” to “commission” in the title and then proceeded to state that, “The commission is both the county legislative body and the county executive.”
According to state law, two things are important to note about the changes made by the county attorney to the original plan.
One, there is a legal process in statute for changing a form of county government from a council form to a commission form. Just changing what you call yourself and rewriting the plan does not make it legal.
Two, if a change of county government plan is already in process, then that process takes precedence.
Thus, if voters are told they have two options on the ballot but one of them is illegal and they vote the legal option down (Council-Manager), then according to HB224, Grand County will default to a three-person county commission.
This, if you have been paying attention, was the original intent of those behind the mandate in HB224.
Former member Grand County Change of Government Study Committee