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Sandy City criticized for employee bonus program

Sandy City criticized for employee bonus program


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Richard Piatt reportingBonuses are a perk if you work for Sandy City, but is the system fair and does it work?

Sandy City officials agree that its cash-bonus program is unique among cities. Until now, the exact amounts of those bonuses were a secret, but a newspaper's public information request revealed that those with the top salaries are also getting the biggest bonuses.

The way it works is a lot like a business: good work is rewarded with a bonus. But some people are asking: Does a city have any business running itself that way?

Sandy City criticized for employee bonus program

Sandy City officials say their employees are happier when compared to the employees of other cities. They also say taxpayers are more satisfied with city services because Sandy is run like a business, not a bureaucracy.

"We felt it's been very successful in attracting and retaining employees," explained Trina Duerksen, spokeswoman for Sandy City.

Sandy City criticized for employee bonus program

Duerksen talked to Eyewitness News about the bonuses because she said Mayor Tom Dolan was in meetings. But city records indicate the mayor took about a $1,000 bonus every year since 1997, an unusual government perk. Those same records also show that city administrator Byron Jorgenson got more than $50,000 in bonuses over the last five years.

The records also show the city has budgeted more than $94,000 for bonuses so far this fiscal year. The top 13 people on the mayor's staff get about 20 percent of that money.

Sandy City criticized for employee bonus program

Tricia Beck, a longtime Mayor Dolan critic and political opponent, thinks the system is wrong. "Municipalities are not businesses. This is an example of greed, arrogance and entitlement which should not be used in public service," she said.

The specifics of the bonus program were not made public until the Salt Lake Tribune pushed the issue repeatedly, all the way to the Utah Supreme Court. The court ordered Sandy to release the information and pay more than $30,000 in legal fees.

So, is the amount of the bonus supposed to be a secret? "It's not anything that would be considered secret. It was considered private information," Duerksen said.

The incentive and bonus program has existed for more than 20 years in Sandy. It's part of the city budget, a benefit to good employees. Until now, though, no one knew exactly how big that benefit was.

The city's bonus system benefits every city employee who performs well, but to varying degrees. Last year, city council members turned down their bonuses.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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