LOCAL NEWS

Utah County Commission chair calls for resignation of Tom Sakievich over ability to work

Mar 18, 2024, 8:49 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2024, 6:08 am

PROVO —  One of Utah County’s three commissioners has been battling a tumor causing him to miss a series of recent commission meetings and other county work.

Tom Sakievich announced the health issue back on Jan. 3 in a Facebook post.

Emails obtained by KSL TV reveal it was even before that when the health issues started, landing him in the hospital in early December.

And the other commissioners now say that three months later, they have been left in the dark about his diagnosis and when Sakievich might return.

Commissioners Amelia Powers Gardner and Brandon Gordon said county business is being left undone and Gordon, who chairs the commission, is calling for Sakievich to step down.

“Resignation is an option that’s been used in other counties. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Gordon said.

Commissioner Brandon Gordon said county business is being left undone and Gordon, who chairs the commission, is calling for Sakievich to step down. (KSL TV)

“We are getting almost daily complaints from community organizations, internal departments, citizens, other governmental entities that say that they can’t get a hold of that office,” said Powers Gardner.

“Part of it is that there’s just no communication. The other part of that is we have, you know, financial approvals that are happening. And if he’s not well enough to call into a meeting via Zoom, but we have financial approvals happening, I question who’s making those approvals,” Powers Gardner said.

Sakievich did not return KSL’s calls for an interview.

Sakievich’s policy advisor, Lisa Shephard, did agree to a Zoom interview.

“He actually got out of a follow-up appointment today and things are looking great. He is healing and excited to get back to the office,” Shepherd said.

She said she has been filling in for Sakievich in meetings, whether on Zoom or in person when she’s known about them. But she denied that she was covering for his ability to work.

“He has communicated mostly through me, but his phone has been available, and he has been able to have conversations,” she said. “There could have been an in-person meeting at any point to come do a check on him, see how he’s doing. And that didn’t happen,” she said.

She also accuses the two commissioners of playing politics with his health. Sakievich is not running for reelection, because of his tumor, his post said.

“To me, it seems like we’re trying to use Commissioner Sakievich’s health condition as a political weapon,” she said.

“There are candidates vying for (his seat) right now. I think the commissioners all have their chosen people. And, you know, it appears that some people want Commissioner Sakievich to resign so they can get somebody else in that seat,” Shephard said.

County business stalled

In December, Sakievich missed two of three commission meetings. The one he did make was via Zoom. In January, he was in person for three meetings and attended one via Zoom. In February, he missed two of four meetings, and so far in March he has missed one meeting but attended another one via Zoom. He has not been at a commission meeting in person since Jan. 17.

“It’s interesting that a man who’s facing this fight of his life is still dedicated to the people of Utah County and making sure that he is prepared for all the meetings, even the meetings that he didn’t attend. He was prepared to attend those. And so those were last-minute calls, whether he could be on those or not,” Shephard said.

Powers Gardner and Gordon said it’s not just the commission meetings, but that Sakievich hasn’t attended important county business like the boards and councils he sits on, and that they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to canvass the Democratic primary in their county.

Tom Sakievich policy advisor, Lisa Shephard said, ““It’s interesting that a man who’s facing this fight of his life is still dedicated to the people of Utah County and making sure that he is prepared for all the meetings, even the meetings that he didn’t attend.” (KSL TV)

They also say he missed the county’s State of the County. Further, he manages a portfolio of county contracts and serves as the chair of Wasatch Behavioral Health.

“We only have funding for our public defenders through June. And so we’re trying to negotiate a contract right now. And I’ve actually had to step in and start doing that negotiation,” Powers Gardiner said. “Another example is our attorney’s office needs another civil attorney and they’ve been unable to get a hold of anybody in his office to make that case to him,” Powers Gardner said.

Recently, in a county commission meeting, Powers Gardner and Gordon disagreed on an issue, which then couldn’t move forward because there was no tie-breaking vote.

“We ended up just waiting to see if he would be in the meeting the next week and he was, fortunately, able to vote to break that tie,” Gordon said.

But it was the day before that meeting that Gordon sent an email to Sakievich, Powers Gardner, Ezra Nair (Utah County’s county administrator) titled, “Urgent meeting Request Regarding Commissioner Sakievich’s Work Plans.”

“While we wish well for Commissioner Sakievich and hope for the best with his prognosis, his prolonged absences from his Commission office has left significant duties unfulfilled, despite our additional efforts,” Gordon wrote.

March 22 deadline

It then outlined a list of assignments that the county needed answers by March 22, and a call for his resignation if he couldn’t provide them.

“If you are unable to immediately return to work and fulfill the duties of your office, it would be appropriate and honorable to submit your resignation so that another person could be selected to finish your term and perform the substantial and important work required of a Utah County Commissioner,” Gordon wrote.

The commissioners both said that they empathize with what he’s going through, and they are trying to balance his health with the needs of their county.

“I want people to remember the three great years that he served and not remember that his will last year was spent having cancer treatments and not being in meetings and not being able to sign documents,” Gordon said.

As for when Sakievich might return, Shephard said she was hopeful in the “next few weeks.”

“The treatments that he’s had, he’s not been sick. So that’s been a good part,” Shephard said. “But the radiation did make him very tired.”

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Utah County Commission chair calls for resignation of Tom Sakievich over ability to work