Utah Department of Natural Resources appointee causes uproar from Dems
Aug 24, 2022, 6:29 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Democratic Party is threatening legal action if Rep. Joel Ferry doesn’t resign his seat and is removed from the 2022 ballot after his appointment to the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
On June 24, Gov. Spencer Cox announced that Ferry would join his administration as the new executive director of Utah’s DNR, citing Ferry’s experience in agriculture before being elected as an active representative for Utah House District 1 in 2019.
“From water conservation to air quality to public lands, Joel has been an effective voice for wise stewardship of the rich natural resources in our state,” reads Cox’s statement on Ferry’s appointment. “His legislative experience, as well as his foundation as a farmer and rancher, will help shape our vision around natural resources and I’m grateful he’s willing to take on this new challenge.”
However, Democratic candidate for the district, Joshua Hardy, called on Ferry to resign his seat in the Legislature and remove his name from the ballot, or they will ask Lt. Gov Diedre Henderson to do it for them.
“Currently, Mr. Ferry is Acting Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and a state representative,” the Democratic party stated. “This is a clear violation of the Utah Constitution.”
The Democratic Party is referring to Article V of the Utah Constitution, which states:
“The powers of the government of the State of Utah shall be divided into three distinct departments, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial; and no person charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments, shall exercise any functions appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases herein expressly directed or permitted.”
In June, Gov. Cox appointed Rep. Joel Ferry to lead the Department of Natural Resources. Thus far, he has refused to resign his seat in the legislature, a blatant violation of the state constitution.
— Utah Democratic Party (@UtahDemocrats) August 18, 2022
In a letter to Henderson and Director of Elections Ryan Cowley, the party cites a 1976 informal opinion from the Utah Assistant Attorney General where Sen. Edison Stephens accepted the position of Director of the Division of Weights and Measures and should not be a candidate for reelection.
“It also seems clear under this section that when Senator Stephens accepted the position of Director of the Division of Weights and Measures that his office as a State Senator became vacant, since he could not hold his new position and also be a member of the Legislature,” the informal opinion of Assistant Attorney General, H. Wright Volker states.
The Utah Democat’s letter claims that Ferry can not perform both executive duties while holding an active role in the Utah Legislator.
Ferry responded to Democrats, saying he will not take his name off the ballot until he is confirmed as the executive director of DNR, telling KSL Newsradio that his confirmation was bad timing since lawmakers couldn’t meet in July.
“It’s kinda like this perfect storm of bad timing to delay it the way it has,” Ferry said. “But I look forward to Senate confirmation in [the] September meeting and I’ll resign at that point.”
Ferry said he is not taking Legislative pay while working with DNR and doesn’t want to end up in “limbo” while he waits for his confirmation.
“I feel like I’ve been doing a really good job representing the people of Box Elder County,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure my confirmation was going to happen before I step down.”
On Wednesday, Henderson responded to the Democrat’s letter saying she won’t take action regarding Ferry’s status on the ballet.
“While I recognize the uncertainty of Mr. Ferry’s current situation, I make no conclusion regarding the constitutionality of his status as a legislator or as active director of the Department of Natural Resources,” Henderson states. “Mr. Ferry’s status as current or former legislator does not affect his status as a candidate and does not require me to remove him from the November ballot.”
#BREAKING @LGHendersonUtah has responded to @UtahDemocrats demand for @JoelMFerry to be removed from Nov ballot. She basically said she can't, legally. Dems argue Ferry is holding two jobs as a legislator and acting dir. of @UtahDNR. #utpol @kslnewsradio pic.twitter.com/QC9FhgiUre
— Lindsay Aerts (@LindsayOnAir) August 24, 2022
Henderson refers to Utah Election Code in her statement that she only has the power to remove a candidate in certain situations like death, physical or mental disability, or disclosing financial reports.
For now, Ferry is listed as a candidate for Utah House District 1 with Hardy with two other Utah Republican write-ins, according to the Box Elder County website.