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The Utah Association of Counties' (UAC) decision to name convicted federal lands trespasser Phil Lyman County Commissioner of the Year has spurred questions about Salt Lake County's involvement in the organization.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson and other council members want to question UAC officials about their decision to honor Lyman, a San Juan County commissioner whose misdemeanor conviction in federal court for organizing an illegal ATV protest ride into a protected canyon area ignited outrage in rural Utah.
He is still awaiting sentencing after two federal judges have recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest in the midst of a furious campaign by rural officeholders to exonerate Lyman.
But the rural commissioners, council members and legislators who have been vocal in Lyman's support don't necessarily reflect the values of the urban areas that pay most of the dues to UAC, and some are suggesting pulling out of the association altogether and forming an urban county organization.
The Lyman award is just the latest frustration some Salt Lake County officials have expressed about UAC priorities over the years, since UAC has supported rural counties' efforts to wrest control of public lands from the federal government.
Several years ago, then-Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch expressed concern about the lack of transparency from UAC in the way they spend the county's dues money.
Salt Lake County pays $262,000 a year to UAC, which comes from taxpayers.
Wilson, Hatch and Mayor Ben McAdams all say that most of what UAC does is routine advocacy in the interest of all counties. McAdams said he appreciated UAC's support for the Healthy Utah plan to expand Medicaid in Utah, although the plan ultimately failed in the Utah Legislature.
UAC Executive Director Adam Trupp says he understands the county's concerns and is eager to have a discussion. He said the decision to name Lyman the Commissioner of the Year was made at a meeting of county commissioners and council members in September and reflected their attitudes about federal control of the lands in their areas.
Besides Salt Lake County, Summit County, too, has expressed concern about the award to Lyman, Trupp said.
Speaking of rural values • The Juab County Commission recently voted to give $5,000 of taxpayer money to the Americans Lands Council (ALC), which pays State Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and his wife Becky more than $100,000 a year to act as executive director and public relations officer, respectively.
ALC was formed to advocate for state and local control of public lands and more than half of its revenues go to pay the Ivorys' salaries and expenses.
Meanwhile, when the Mount Nebo chapter of Future Farmers of America took first place in the FAA competition for Utah, the chapter asked Juab County commissioners for financial support to defray expenses when its members go to Louisville, Ky., for the national competition. The commissioners refused.
And when a local resident asked the county why it hasn't updated its website to include U.S. Rep. Mia Love as the county's congressional representative, he was told it cost too much to reconfigure the site. firstname.lastname@example.org