A Provo branch of the Utah attorney general's office has been created, with a primary task of child-support enforcement in 15 central and southern Utah counties.
The new Provo office is the fourth and final satellite operation formed by the attorney general's office in Salt Lake City. Other offices are in Ogden, St. George and Cedar City."This is the last step, and it's a big step," said Attorney General David Wilkinson, who conducted a news conference Tuesday afternoon introducing the staff in their new offices in the Utah County Regional Government Complex.
The three full-time attorneys and two secretaries will spend five-sixths of their time on child-support enforcement and related work. The other one-sixth will be legal work for Utah Valley Community College, Snow College and the College of Eastern Utah.
The attorneys are Gene Gammon, a former deputy Utah County attorney who has been involved in child-support enforcement work for more than a decade; Randy Hudson, a former deputy county attorney who most recently worked for Uintah County; and Barbara Ochoa, who has worked for legal services in Provo for five years. Ochoa splits time between support-enforcement and education law.
The staff will collect financial obligations owed to the state and enforce child-support decrees and obligations against delinquent parents who refuse to support their children, Wilkinson said.
In the fiscal year that ended last month, working with the Office of Recovery Services, University Hospital and the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, the attorney general's office assisted in the collection of more than $43 million owed to the state or its agencies.
Some dozen years ago, the federal government created financial incentives for the states to enforce support-related collections. However, Utah opted not to participate, with the enforcement responsibilities falling by default to the county attorneys and their staffs.
Several years ago the federal government threatened to reduce or eliminate the incentive fundings, forcing the state to supervise enforcement efforts. Since then, the state created its Office of Recovery Services.
Saying that he "didn't want to take it all on at once" three years ago, Wilkinson oversaw the inaugural efforts in first the Salt Lake area and then in northern Utah.
Officially, the Provo office has been in operation since the first of the year and fully staffed since the first of this month. The staff recently moved into the new Utah County Regional Government Complex.
Gammon reviewed the staff's responsibilities, which will include child-support collection, obtaining tribunal orders if lacking, determining the parentage of children born out of wedlock, investigating people who might be taking improper advantage of state welfare and public assistance programs and instigating criminal action on child support or welfare fraud cases.