KSL INVESTIGATES

KSL Investigates ‘Golden Parachute’ Policy For Elected Officials

Aug 23, 2018, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:48 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Politicians spend lots of time and money asking for your vote to get into office. In one Utah county, taxpayers have been paying them a hefty payout when they leave office.

And a KSL investigation found that policy has cost taxpayers $248,351 over the past four years.

In 2008, Weber County created an early retirement incentive for employees. The county offered to cover health insurance premiums for five years for any employees who retired early.

Weber County Commissioners serving in 2014.

But in 2014, then commissioners Kerry Gibson, Matthew Bell, and Jan Zogmaister approved a change to the policy only offered to elected officials: take the insurance benefit like other employees, or take the benefit in one lump sum payment worth tens of thousands of dollars. The commissioners also shortened the length of time an elected official needed to serve in order to qualify, from eight years to four.

Officials were eligible for the payout regardless of whether they quit midterm or got voted out.

PAYMENTS AT A GLANCE

County records obtained by the KSL Investigators show the three commissioners who voted for the policy, Gibson, Bell, and Zogmaister, have taken the lump sum option. Former Weber County Attorney Dee Smith also took the lump sum option.

  • • Kerry Gibson: $64,494.60
  • • Matthew Bell: $65,529.60
  • • Jan Zogmaister: $52,999.80
  • • Dee Smith: $65,327.40

The officials could put the money into their retirement accounts, medical accounts, or take a check.

Taxpayers the KSL Investigators spoke with at the Weber County Fair did not like the policy.

“I don’t think they should get a payout like that, I don’t believe in that,” said Keith Jacques.

“I think our elected officials all the way in government get a lot of perks that the rest of the citizens don’t get,” said Kathryn Stuart.

GOLDEN PARACHUTE

The Utah Taxpayers Association also saw problems with the policy.

“Wow, this is certainly a golden parachute for elected officials and I don’t think that’s something taxpayers anticipate their elected officials having,” said Billy Hesterman, the vice president of the association.

“This is not good public policy,” continued Hesterman. “The commission and if there’s any other counties that have this same type of benefit, should reevaluate it.”

UNIQUE IN UTAH

The KSL Investigators randomly surveyed 10 counties across the state. Human resource directors all said they’d never heard of such a policy and said elected officials in their counties did not get anything when they left office.

KSL reached out to the elected officials who benefited from the policy.

Former commissioner Jan Zogmaister declined to be interviewed. Neither former commissioner Matthew Bell nor former county attorney Dee Smith returned messages.

Former commissioner Kerry Gibson declined an on-camera interview, but answered questions over the phone. He quit his commission post in June to take a job with the Utah Department of Natural Resources. He said he did not realize the policy he voted on in 2014 created a separate benefit for elected officials. He said the benefits should be the same for employees, and said the current policy should be changed.

He’s not the only official who seemed confused by the policy.

“Kind of naively, I thought the benefit applied evenly across the board,” said current Weber County Commissioner James Ebert.

POLICY ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

Ebert took office after the policy was approved. He said the commission decided to phase out the early retirement incentive for employees in 2016. He said that phaseout will take 10 years, but will eliminate a $30 million liability on the county’s books.

But Ebert said the commission will need to take a separate vote to eliminate the elected official benefit. He said the county’s legal department is reviewing proposed legislation to do so.

“County policy should be fair and equitable to everyone in the county,” said Ebert.

Ebert himself faces a decision whether or not to take the insurance or lump sum payout. He lost his seat in the 2018 Republican primary and will leave his commission post at year’s end.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

...
Daniella Rivera and Annie Knox, KSL TV

Location data cracks open police cases, but critics say there’s a cost to privacy

Utah police are using controversial search warrants to scoop up large dumps of digital data. They can be critical crime fighting tools, but privacy experts warn they're an unconstitutional abuse of technology.
2 months ago
A bus driver fills up at a gas station in Brooklyn on August 11, 2022 in New York City. While fuel ...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Ways you can save money at the gas pump

Inflation remains high for several reasons and one of the biggest is tied to gas prices. But you can bring down the price you pay with some relatively simple changes in your driving habits.
2 months ago
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly ro...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?

Gas prices have edged down from their record highs, but they are still a far cry from being affordable for many Utah families. So, when Google rolled out a new feature for its Maps navigation app that says it can save you money on gas by using suggested eco-friendly routes, the KSL Investigators decided to put it to the test.
2 months ago
FILE: Back-to-school shopping (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Saving $ on back-to-school supplies with inflation

With inflation running amok this year, parents are tackling big price hikes on top of the stress. Fortunately, there are ways they can still save money.
2 months ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

KSL Investigators help bank customer regain access to his money after fraud incident

KSL Investigators help a fraud victim gain access to his bank account after nearly a year of being locked out.
2 months ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

What are the rules for airline travel credits?

After canceling a beach vacation to Hawaii, a Utah woman believes she has $1,400 in flight credits. Ongoing flight cancellations have plagued the summer travel season, and a lot of travelers are being made whole with flight credits rather than refunds.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
KSL Investigates ‘Golden Parachute’ Policy For Elected Officials