News Column

Credit card records show that not all Weber commissioners dine together

January 27, 2014

By Cathy McKitrick, Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

Jan. 27 -- OGDEN -- A year's worth of county-issued credit card transactions for Weber County's three commissioners revealed an apparent affinity between Kerry Gibson and Matthew Bell , but no corresponding love for Jan Zogmaister . For example, a May 1 Sonora Grill receipt showed that Bell and Gibson dined out with the Commission's four administrative assistants, but Zogmaister was not present. "I found out about it after the fact," Zogmaiser said. "That's kind of the way things go here. But I'm still working and getting things done." Both Bell and Gibson scratched their heads trying to remember why Zogmaister was absent. "Jan might have been sick that day," Bell said. "I can't remember," Gibson said, adding that he personally has always been a collaborator. "I feel we have a lot to gain by working with one another rather than a go-it-alone type mentality." Records showed that Bell and Gibson lunched with area officials without Zogmaister on three other occasions as well. In early September, Bell and Gibson dined at Wing Nuts with Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith and Suzanne Ellison-Ferre , a retired school administrator and current treasurer for Weber County's Republican Party . "That's the only time I can think of when I broke bread with any commissioners," said Smith. Smith's aim was to talk about the progress Ogden schools have made and to discuss possible partnerships in respect to facilities. Bell said he initiated that meeting, but wasn't sure whether Zogmaister had the opportunity to attend or not. All three commissioners attended four conferences together last year. However, Bell and Gibson also traveled to Washington D.C. , Fort Worth, Texas and Flagstaff, Ariz. to participate in three National Association of Counties events. Brent Gardner , executive director for Utah Association of Counties , said that no rules were broken by having two commissioners present at times. With a three-member body, two constitutes a quorum. "The only rule is that when they meet to conduct official business, they then must have a quorum present," Gardner said. For the year, Zogmaister's purchasing card charges totaled $2,334 , Gibson's $7.445 and Bell's $9,209 . "There is a tendency on the part of an incoming commissioner to want to attend everything," Zogmaister said of Bell's heftier tab, acknowledging that participation boils down to personal preference and "finding out where the real value is." Zogmaister acknowledged that, against her will, Bell and Gibson voted to shift some of her oversight assignments. "One that I fought for was the Sheriff's office," Zogmaister said of the liaison position she'd held for two years "and it had taken me a long time to learn to work with them." When Bell, a former Sheriff's lieutenant, joined the commission last January, Zogmaister said she told him she would not relinquish that particular responsibility. But by mid-year "it was voted within the office that I had to give it up," Zogmaister said. Gibson recalled Bell's early interest in that slot. "He commented that he had expertise in that area, and that's hard to argue with," Gibson said. However, they waited several months to make the change. During the Commission's final meeting of 2013, Bell and Gibson voted in favor of a resolution supporting Utah's caucus-convention system which plays a significant role in selecting candidates for office. That resolution came in response to the Count My Vote petition drive ( ) currently underway. If that initiative succeeds in getting on November's ballot, voters will get a say in whether to keep or toss the caucus-convention process in favor of direct primaries. Zogmaister abstained from that Dec. 17 vote, saying it was the incorrect forum to take action she viewed as political. At their first meeting of 2014, Gibson and Bell broke with the tradition of rotating the Commission's vice-chair from the previous year into the top leadership slot. The two passed over Zogmaister, voting to keep Gibson as commission chairman for a second year instead. Zogmaister, who comes up for re-election in November, already faces a robust intra-party challenge from Riverdale Police Lt. James Ebert , who sides with Commissioners Bell and Gibson regarding Utah's caucus method of electing delegates in neighborhood meetings. Those delegates then narrow the field of potential candidates at convention. The top two vote-getters advance from convention to a primary unless one candidate garners 60 percent or more of the delegate vote. "My race will be at convention with the delegates and everybody knows that," Zogmaister said. "That's really what I need to prepare for." Gibson, a former state lawmaker who won his commission seat in 2010, also comes up for re-election this year. The period to file as a candidate opens March 14 and closes March 20 . Weber County's Democratic Party ( ) caucuses will be held March 18 , and Weber County's Republican Party ( ) caucuses are scheduled for March 20 . Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or . Follow her on Twitter at @catmck. ___ (c)2014 the Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) Visit the Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT)

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