Wednesday, December 22, 2010

County Administrator Seeks to Protect His Job

by Michael Orton via MicroBureau West
all rights reserved

Richfield --

Sevier County's chief administrator and economic development director fears for his job.

At the commissioners' meeting on this date, Malcolm Nash requested that the commissioners approve an "employment agreement" that would provide unprecedented employment guarantees and a potential "golden parachute" of nine months salary (approximately $53,000) if he's ever terminated by the county. In addition, the proposal submitted by Nash includes a financial commitment for "all accrued and unused vacation leave not to exceed 240 hours and 1 day per month for each full month of employment performed prior to termination, beginning the date of the original appointment, as accrued severance benefit not to exceed a total of 40 days..."

In the event of any termination, that would add another $5800, giving him close to a year's salary for the privilege of finding another job. (source: Utah's Right to Know <-click here)

Demonstrating a defensive, beligerent demeanor to the county residents assembled for the last meeting of the year and refusing to respond to any questions, Nash defended his guaranteed employment request by angrily addressing the public. He stated that, "when an election cycle turns personal, and my name is mentioned specifically as a target for an election process, that raises the level of awareness in my mind that no other employee in this county is subject to... nobody. In this last election cycle, I was the only one that was mentioned as a target."

The heat of the kitchen.

Or, as some observed, the white-heat of the public policy combustion chamber championed by Nash who has little else to show for his efforts during the past decade. While leaving retail economic development to be headed by the Greater Richfield Chamber of Commerce, a large commercial center in Salina still awaits a major tenant and business to be anchored there. The transportation sector is in focus by Washington, D.C. lobbyists hired by the state's Six County Association of Governments, of which Sevier County is a major part and contributor. In years past, Nash has declined to participate in efforts by the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a major business recruiter active in the state. He has also denounced the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development which has the ability to direct businesses who could locate in Sevier County. All of this makes Nash vulnerable to mounting criticism and concerns about his future performance.

Conducting today's meeting was Commissioner Gary Mason, who responded to Nash and his angry contract statement. "When we made that appointment, I don't know that we clarified that [your status] changed. As far as I know, it didn't change... Dale [Eyre, the county's attorney] has advised us that there are two appointed positions in this county: The chief deputy, under the sheriff, and yours, so yes, we need to look at... Dale?"

Interruption for clarification on Nash's present status was then offered by the Sevier County attorney, "Well, you [commissioners] could make his position an appointed position, at this point there's only one that I'm aware of and that's the chief deputy in the sheriff's department." The future of Nash's contract proposal then became uncertain, leaving many to wonder if this would become a "backroom deal" negotiated without the transparency or public input which was a specific election issue the previous month. An "economic development plan" was promised during the election season, but at this point it still hasn't been delivered to the community.

Commissioner Mason indicated that there would be no need to debate Nash's self-serving agenda item further, since the commissioners weren't ready to "move forward," with it, at which point the matter was tabled. The next opportunity for the county to consider Nash's proposed contract guarantees will be January 3rd, when G. "Tooter" Ogden is sworn-in, taking the commissioner's seat lost by Ivan Cowley in the Republican primary. Mason was also re-elected and will then commence another four-year term.

Community Offended

Observers immediately denounced Nash's public tirade as further proof that Nash is still eager to mistreat the people who struggle to pay for his lifestyle. "He's a 'target' because of the poor job he's done with the county's economic development," said Dick Cumiskey, a county resident and community organizer. "Malcolm Nash and I are far apart, ideologically," offered Richfield resident and physician Dr. Richard Crimin. The doctor described a confrontation instigated by Nash earlier in the year about a tense hypothetical situation offered by Nash who demanded a response.

Sevier County and its "Executive Administrator" have been under attack for the amount of time and money devoted over ten years to advocate the failed coal-fired power plant proposal and there's no indication that the pressure will abate soon. Developers of the power plant recently succeeded in their application with the county but only after scaling back their design and changing it to less-polluting natural gas as a combustion source. The reality and other approvals of that project now rest with the state's Department of Environmental Quality permitting process, the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency and the developer's ability to get an industrial-sized natural gas line connected to their proposed generating site in Sigurd, Utah. Funding sources have yet to be identified as well, making the entire power plant project a non-starter so far.


Sources have come forward indicating that Commissioner Topham spent the hour before today's public meeting defending Nash and his request, offering the view that Nash "does so much for the county." Those Topham was addressing are still not convinced, noting that while Nash may run many errands for the commissioners themselves, the county's economic development has still has gone lacking. In addition, many wonder if Commissioner Topham thinks he'll have an easier time defending Malcolm Nash in the coming years, given that Nash has offended many who understand how public policy should be pursued, i.e.: with a broad base of public support rather than only the privileged few of Sevier County's elite.