Commission meeting on Sept 16 became a little heated as Commissioner Gary Kofford called for Commissioner Drew Sitterud's resignation. The meeting began with Commissioner Drew Sitterud being officially reinstated from his administrative leave stemming from felony charges of misuse of public monies where on Sept. 2, he pled guilty to two Class A misdemeanors. According to state statute Commissioner Sitterud is still eligible to hold public office.
During the citizen concerns portion of the meeting, Commissioner Kofford brought up the matter of Commissioner Sitterud and the trouble he is in. He believes the charges against Commissioner Sitterud were very serious and that the whole thing has been swept under the carpet. There are those who have indicated it is a smear campaign against Commissioner Sitterud. But, Commissioner Kofford believes the smear has been on the employees of Emery County and the citizens of Emery County. He fails to see where a smear has come into play when the county commission has a Republican majority and the County Attorney is also a Republican and the charges were filed by a Republican Attorney General's Office. Commissioner Kofford said when the Emery County Review published an article he felt it was misleading and led people to believe that Commissioner Sitterud had been totally exonerated which isn't the case.
Commissioner Kofford said there have been county employees dismissed for less serious offenses than what Commissioner Sitterud has been charged with. "He signed an affidavit that he is guilty of two Class A Misdemeanors. The citizens deserve to know what's going on. Commissioner Sitterud put a letter in the papers which I find offensive. It stated there is not a policy for reimbursing mileage. There are policies in place. We recently terminated an employee with the road shop for damaging equipment. I think Commissioner Sitterud should submit a letter of resignation. In his letter, Commissioner Sitterud said there are others doing the same thing. I'm not doing it and I'm not aware of any other county employee or county official doing it. I find it offensive. It's stupidity. He said he pled guilty rather than waste tens of thousands of dollars going to trial. The AG's office is prosectuing the case so it would not be Emery County tax dollars. I can't imagine anyone pleading guilty to charges if they are innocent. It doesn't make sense to me. They are trying to mollycoddle it, Sitterud goes on to say he didn't do it," said Kofford.
Kofford said some people say the dollar amount was just small. "Is a little bit OK? Just because you don't take a big bit, you feel it's OK to misuse public funds? I still think resignation is in order."
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks said Commissioner Sitterud has been through the legal system. Elected officials are not removed for a misdemeanor.
Commissioner Kofford says he has no problem with that, but Commissioner Sitterud when he was sworn into office said he would defend the laws of the land, the constitution of the State of Utah and Emery County.
Commissioner Horrocks asked County Attorney David Blackwell for his opinion. Blackwell read a statement he had prepared concerning Commissioner Sitterud's reinstatement.
Commissioner Horrocks asked Commissioner Sitterud if he had anything to say. Commissioner Sitterud said he had no comment.
Commissioner Horrocks said Commissioner Sitterud was reinstated legally and he pled guilty to two Class A Misdemeanors.
Sheriff LaMar Guymon said his biggest frustration with the whole ordeal comes from attacks on his office for doing their job. It is their job to investigate and enforce the law. When evidence of wrongdoing first came to the attention of the sheriff's office by the county attorney's office they were obligated by law to investigate the matter. After an investigation was conducted the information gathered was submitted to the State Attorney General's Office for either prosecution or dismissal. Sheriff Guymon said the rumor mill has it that his office instigated the investigation to prosecute Commissioner Sitterud. Sheriff Guymon said he has never had the chance to explain their side of the matter. They have been treated badly and unfairly. It has been frustrating to be criticized for just doing their job.
Commissioner Sitterud said he has not put that out anywhere. He appreciates what the sheriff's office has done and he's not here to have enemies.
Commissioner Kofford referred to the newspapers saying a few years ago a state legislator was charging illegal mileage and he is no longer a legislator. The papers in Salt Lake pursued the matter until he was kicked out of office.
Commissioner Kofford again referred to the employee in the road shop. This man destroyed an engine so you fire the guy, but it's OK for an elected official to take money and we throw our arms around him and welcome him home?
Commissioner Horrocks said Commissioner Sitterud was placed on administrative leave and worked through the process. His plea bargain to Class A Misdemeanors does not call for removal from office. He is guilty to what he pled to. "We are going to work together with professionalism and with courtesy," said Commissioner Horrocks.
Sheriff Guymon said his office intends to do their job. They get blamed for other peoples mistakes. "I will defend my people and myself. Policies for employees and for elected officials come from two different places. Elected officials are governed by state statutes," said Sheriff Guymon.
Commissioner Horrocks said they will work professionally with the public and will get the county's business done. He told Sheriff Guymon he expects Sheriff Guymon's officers to do their job, if not they should be fired.
Editor's note: During the course of this meeting, it was mentioned the county newspapers were not persecuting Commissioner Sitterud and sensationalizing the situation as Commissioner Kofford thought they should be. I spoke up and said it is a newspapers job to report the facts of a situation. It will be up to the voters in November to decide if they can live with Commissioner Sitterud's mistakes or if they think a removal from office is in order by not supporting him in the election. It's not my job to help the public make their decisions. It's up to the public to sift through what has transpired and vote according to the dictates of their own conscience.