Utah County Commission delays ‘elected officer’ investigation following sheriff, county attorney dispute
UTAH COUNTY, Utah — The launch of an investigation into conduct of elected officials in Utah County has been placed on hold, after a snafu in commission agenda language led to the commission striking down a motion.
The potential investigation comes a week after dueling press conferences by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt and Sheriff Mike Smith over what the sheriff’s office has described as a ritualistic child sex abuse case.
The Utah County Sheriff’s Office initially put out a press release about the case, describing it in general terms and encouraging victims to come forward.
Leavitt then publicly stated he is named in the allegations and accused the sheriff’s office of “using its position for political gain.”
He called for a review of the case, and for Sheriff Mike Smith to resign.
Sheriff Smith rebutted the claim, saying it was not politically motivated and that he believed Leavitt was “using his authority and his pulpit to bully, distract and mischaracterize the facts of an ongoing investigation.”
At Wednesday’s Utah County Commission meeting, an agenda item called for approving and authorizing “the commencement of an investigation related to the potential unauthorized release of documents and other related matters, pursuant to Utah Code…”
Utah County commissioners entered a closed session to discuss the agenda item. When they came back, Sheriff Smith approached the podium.
He said the sheriff’s office has had no problem with transparency.
“I find it interesting as well as disturbing that the commission has placed this on a public agenda item,” Sheriff Smith said. “I find it very inappropriate. It is very out of order.”
He called the commission’s call for an investigation “unprofessional.”
“This continues Leavitt’s attempts to intimidate victims, and witnesses, and people working this case,” he said. “And by placing this on the agenda, the commission has participated in that continual intimidation on this case. This is a criminal investigation.”
At another point, Utah County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Jason Randall also got up and spoke, saying he had “extreme concerns” about the wording of the motion, because it mentioned “documents.”
Commissioners clarified that the criminal investigation is not part of the motion.
Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner said at another point that they wanted to strike the line about documents.
“The agenda item has been modified. I’ll just reiterate, to say, ‘Approve and authorize the commencement of investigation related to the conduct of elected officers of Utah county,’” she explained.
Commissioner Tom Sakievich said they would keep their investigation away from the current investigation.
“This will simply be a scope of what happened last week– and why,” he said.
But because of the discrepancy between what was written on the agenda and what commissioners intended with the motion, they decided to strike the motion entirely with the plan of reintroducing it later, worded in a way that keeps it focused on “conduct of elected officers.”
“I think process matters,” Powers Gardner said. “Following proper process and proper procedure is incredibly important.”
The Utah County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday they’ve received more than 100 tips since their initial press release on the sex abuse case.
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