Cache County clerk resigns after certifying presidential primary

Mar 19, 2024, 3:04 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 4:27 pm

The third Cache County clerk and auditor since 2020 resigned Monday after a brief and tumultuous fe...

The third Cache County clerk and auditor since 2020 resigned Monday after a brief and tumultuous few months, leaving some concerned about continuing election integrity in the county. (Collin Leonard, KSL.com)

(Collin Leonard, KSL.com)

LOGAN — Immediately after certifying the Democratic presidential primary election, Cache County clerk and auditor David Benson submitted a resignation letter to the County Council, effective Monday, ending a short and tumultuous time in office.

“The reasons for this decision are many,” he wrote, “primary among them being attendance to family health matters.”

The former election official named Dianna Schaeffer, currently the tax administration supervisor to the clerk and auditor, as his temporary replacement.

Benson’s resignation followed an investigation into the November 2023 municipal primary and general election from Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson’s office, detailing significant vulnerabilities to the processes in place at that time.

Ryan Cowley, election director from Henderson’s office, said the review “exposed numerous and multiple violations of Utah election law, administrative rule, the Utah election handbook, and basic principles of election administration.” No evidence of election fraud was discovered, Cowley said, but the audit found wide vulnerabilities with “pretty much nonexistent” chain of custody controls.

Two employees working that election were placed on administrative leave on Dec. 8, 2023, after Henderson’s office found evidence that a voter machine logic test had been fabricated. That test did not impact the results of the election, which were certified by both offices. One of the workers has been charged with a third-degree felony, while the other resigned this month, according to Cache County Executive David Zook.

Benson took office after a special election in 2023 was organized in response to Jess Bradfield’s resignation, who held the same post.

Bradfield was initially elected in 2020 after the clerk and auditor, Jill Zollinger, resigned early in 2020. He was then elected in 2022 but resigned after less than a year into his four-year term.

Schaeffer, who has worked for the county for 15 years, said she thinks when candidates “run for an elected position, they are not fully aware of the required responsibility.” When she heard the news, she called on Henderson’s office to provide guidance on the process to select a temporary replacement.

Because Benson was voted in through a special election, the plan for another election is already underway, scheduled for this November, according to Zook.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for the lieutenant governor’s office said the county will be referencing Utah code for filling the vacancy. Benson ran as a Republican, so the county GOP will need to determine whether it will hold a special election for the months leading up to the November election or choose someone using other bylaw processes.

The next election has separated the clerk and auditor position, which was combined to save money, according to Schaeffer. She hopes this will improve the high turnover that office has seen in recent years.

The county has 10 days to formally notify the local GOP of the vacancy, and the GOP would have 30 days to elect a replacement. While the spokesperson from Henderson’s office said they have no concerns about the continuity of improvements undertaken in the county to bring their election processes up to state standards, Zook was “concerned about the integrity of our elections and making sure everything is performed professionally and legally in that office.”

He noted he will make sure the office has his full support and said in a separate statement, “I commend those who have served and those who are yet willing to serve. Balancing the combined pressures of organizational leadership, political opposition, public scrutiny, statutory requirements and family needs can seem impossible.”

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said the lieutenant governor’s office found evidence of election fraud. It found evidence of a doctored voting machine accuracy test, which did not impact the election.

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Cache County clerk resigns after certifying presidential primary