Tuesday, January 08, 2013

ILLEGAL GAINS

Questions are being asked in light of the Fire District Board making the

declaration that it is illegal for them to take payment for their services, since

they are also taking payments for being elected officials. Other questions

persist such as: Does the law apply to other boards and districts

where members  over the years have been collecting payments for meeting

attendance?

Here is the law as it appears in Utah State Code Annotated 17B-1-308;

17B-1-308. Boards of trustees comprised of county or municipal legislative body members.
(1) If a county or municipal legislative body by statute also serves as the board of trustees of a local district:
  (a) the board of trustees shall hold district meetings and keep district minutes, accounts, and other records separate from those of the county or municipality;
(b) subject to Subsection (2), the board of trustees may use, respectively, existing county or municipal facilities and personnel for district purposes;
(c) notwithstanding Subsections 17B-1-303(1) and (2), the term of office of each board of trustees member coincides with the member's term as a county or municipal legislative body member;
(d) each board of trustees member represents the district at large; and (e) board members may not receive compensation for their service as board members in addition to compensation they receive as members of a county or municipal legislative body.
(2) The county or municipal legislative body, as the case may be, shall charge the local district, and the local district shall pay to the county or municipality, a reasonable amount for:
  (a) the county or municipal facilities that the district uses; and
  (b) except for services rendered by the county or municipal legislative body members, the services that the county or municipality renders to the local district.

As outlined in the various codes, a district may be a special service district;

it may be an area to provide a service or to consolidate certain services.

What boards should this law have application to? Reasonable people

reading the law and following all the citations of boards, districts and

political subdivisions made in State Code, could make a case that every

board, regardless, of name, should or could come under the law found in

17B-1-308.

In Wasatch County, we have boards, very much like the State of

Utah, that use terms such as: Director or Trustee. There are those who

would like to run from their duty as elected officials, and hide under the

pretext, that in discussing districts in one place in State of Utah Code, the

term “director” in their mind would be different than the word “trustee” or

“trustees”. They are trying to make the case; the duties are different, so

therefore, if the code says “trustees” and they call themselves “directors”,

the law would not apply to them. A careful reading of the code of State of

Utah and a review of written opinions on the subject, open the door to the

following thoughts:

1. Director and Trustee are used interchangeable in

Utah Code. And although some of the work as a “director” may be

somewhat different than work of a “trustee”, the difference is usually found

in the difference of duties between non-profit businesses or groups verses 

for-profit groups. Attorneys have written many articles on the subject of

director and trustee and conclude there is no difference. What boards should

come under this law? As it is now known, in Wasatch County there are a

number of boards, between 20 and 25 that elected officials are on. Some

pay and some do not. The major ones that pay seem to center in the

following:

1. Blue bench Land fill Board
2. Heber Power and Light
3. Heber Valley SSD (sewer district)
4. Jordanelle SSD
5. Wasatch Fire District
6. Wasatch Tourism and Economic Development

There may be more, but these seem to be the ones that pay the most.

Some seem to question the fact that Heber Light and Power appears on this

list, since the rest seem to convey, they are special service districts. The

inclusion of Heber Light and Power seems to be correct in light of the

following: They are a political subdivision as outlined in State Code. They

cover a geographical area of Wasatch County and they mention in their own

documents they are a service provider and the service area does not include

the entire County, so it would seem they are a “service district”. All must

ask as citizens of this County what should be done?

1. Should the money be returned with interest? The money involved in the last six years exceeds $700,000.00.

2. Should those involved resign so new elections can be held?

3. Should legal action be taken, so there is combination of incarceration and re- payment?

4. Should it be ignored, hoping it will all go away?

5. Should attorneys who have provided legal advice, be allowed to escape any action? They were paid with rate payer money or tax money and should have known the law and its application.

There will be those who fain ignorance of the law. Such ignorance is no

excuse, since reasonable people, if they have any doubt of what they are

doing, find out. The people deserve a resolution of the issues and are

entitled to an outcome that would preclude anyone else taking money for

any service that is not allowed by law. Perhaps, the public discussion needs

to center itself on the real principles of morality, honesty, openness,

transparency and civic service and a little less on the issues we have

allowed in the past.

(for those interested, citations of opinions and court cases as well as the State of Utah are available and were used in this article)

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