Kerry Wayne: Anyone for sprinkles?
There are several items from Tuesday’s Weber County Commission meeting regarding the “Retirement Incentive Policy” discussions that anyone should find troubling. Most retirement incentive programs are temporary and are used as a tool for adjusting employee headcount and avoiding forced layoffs within an organization.
Usually these programs are temporary and are promptly discontinued after manpower or budgetary goals are met. This apparently has not been the case in Weber County, as the current offering dates back many years. In 2014, elected officials were added to the policy with even much more favorable terms, than regular employee benefits (with cash payouts of around $250,000 to date).
One must understand that Weber County does not have its own retirement system, instead they participate in one managed by the State of Utah. Much like building a sundae, the State supplies the ice cream (retirement), while the County supplies the “optional” sugary topping (retirement incentive) and some people (elected officials) get sprinkles and a cherry (cash payout). Amazingly, some of these “select” elected officials, after receiving that retirement incentive cash payout, have returned to employment with Weber County. Yet nothing has been done for the county taxpayer to recoup the payout monies.
The commission has voted to modify the Retirement Incentive Policy, but through a phased reduction of benefits rolling into 2026. The recommendation of a phased reduction was attributed to Deputy Weber County Attorney Christopher Crockett. The problem here is that Mr. Crockett, as a Weber County employee, is subject to the “Retirement Incentive Policy” which most would perceive as a conflict of interest.
The better choice for an opinion on the elimination of the entire policy would be a reputable outside counsel well-versed in human resource law. The fact that the words like “vested” and “expectation” were used when referring to the “Retirement Incentive Policy” seemed to run contrary to the “Purpose” paragraph of the Policy. At this commission meeting alone, over $180,000 was approved for incentive benefits for three retiring county employees. Please understand that I believe that, because the policy was in effect at the time that these employees applied, that they fully deserve the benefit. What I do have an issue with is continuing to burden Weber County taxpayers with the bill for generous benefits that they would never receive from their employers.
Over the years, Weber County has generated huge liabilities through lax human resource management (i.e. grandfathered leave, over $50,000 was paid out at this particular commission meeting). Kicking bad policies down the road rather than terminating them places an unwarranted financial burden on Weber County families and equates to pruning noxious weeds in your prized garden rather than yanking them out. Wasteful taxation forces many of our local families to make the hard choices between medication, food, utilities, school supplies or housing.
It’s time to hold our elected officials accountable to a higher standard and stop accepting excuses for poor oversight of department management. It shouldn’t take a “60 Minutes” encounter, where the reporters are banging at the door with cameras rolling, for the county to act responsibly and do what’s best for Weber County families. As Weber County taxpayers, we deserve so much better, and possibly even a sprinkle or two.