OGDEN (ABC4 News) – The option for Weber County elected officials to take a $50,000 to $65,000 lump sum cash payout instead of a 5-year health benefits package upon leaving office…is over.
Weber County Commissioners – James Harvey, Gage Froerer, and Scott Jenkins all voted unanimously to eliminate the policy in a meeting Tuesday morning.
Froerer said between 2007 and 2014, elected officials were offered the same 5-year health benefits package upon leaving their position as county employees.
But in 2014, the three county commissioners at the time – Matthew Bell, Kerry Gibson and Jan Zogmaister voted in favor of a policy change, that would allow elected officials to take a lump sum cash payout upwards of $50,000 instead of the health benefits package.
Bell, Gibson, and Zogmaister became the first three people to opt for and receive the cash payout, along with Dee Smith, who is the former county attorney. Their payouts were:
- Matthew Bell: $65,529.60
- Dee Smith: $65,327.40
- Kerry Gibson: $64,494.60
- Jan Zogmaister: $52,999.80
The policy change was exclusive only to elected officials, not to county employees. It also shortened the required length of time served to be eligible for this option from eight years to four years.
“This was bad policy. Number one, why do we treat elected officials, especially after they’ve served only 4 years, different than we would treat an employee? In my opinion, if you’re an employee of the county, elected or hired, we should be on the same level,” said Commissioner Froerer.
Froerer and his colleagues saw a higher number of residents in attendance at Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting, to express their disagreement on this policy.
“The public was very engaged with this process. A substantial majority felt this was a bad policy,” he said. “It’s not even how a private business deals with insurance payouts.”
He said a slight tweak made in August 2018 would have phased out the policy until 2026, impacting only officials who were elected before 2019. But Tuesday’s unanimously vote eliminated the cash payout entirely, impacting seven elected officials who would have been eligible for the payout.
“Our whole focus in this county needs to be about customer service. It needs to be about making sure those taxpayer dollars, those hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” said Commissioner Froerer.
Out of all the former elected officials who received a cash payout, only Kerry Gibson responded to inquires made by ABC4 News. He now works for the Utah Department of Nature Resources (DNR). He issued a statement via text message, saying:
“The best part of my position at DNR is the opportunity to work hard for Utahns everyday. The legislative session is a critical part of this effort that I have dedicated my time and attention to addressing key natural resource issues.
However, I will say this. The issues facing the Weber County Commission are complex. Elected officials are in a unique position to make very difficult decisions daily.
When the policy was presented to the former commission, the reasons for the policy were reasonable and an effort to protect tax payers.
Now, given the history and complexity of this particular issue, I believe the county is making a wise decision by adjusting its policy to apply equally to all county employees and elected officials.”