Six lawsuits seeking more than $80,000 have been filed during the past year against Weber County Commissioner A. Stephen Dirks for payment of real estate loans and credit card bills.
Dirks, a former Ogden mayor, said the financial problems stem from deals involving three group homes for handicapped and troubled youths.He said the debts were incurred before he was appointed to the county commission in 1989 and may be cleared up soon if he sells the five group homes he owns.
"It's an obligation I have that I'll meet one way or another," Dirks said. "I'm a victim of the market, somewhat."
Dirks said the real estate dealings that went sour should not be seen as a reflection of his abilities to handle county finances. He is the Democratic candidate on the Nov. 6 ballot for the four-year "B" seat.
Although only three of the homes Dirks owns are involved in the lawsuits, he said he is trying to sell all five so he can devote his attention to county business.
His involvement with group homes began a few years ago when the state decided to move some mentally ill people into community group homes. Dirks said he thought it would be profitable to buy unoccupied homes and convert them into income-producing group homes.
The largest suit was filed Oct. 5 in 2nd District Court by the Ogden-based Land Mortgage company, a real estate development firm run by Craig Woolley. The suit says Dirks owes the company roughly $58,338.
That suit involves a group home that Dirks bought in Salt Lake City to house troubled youths.
Weber PIC Director Sid Jefferies said the organization was trying a new idea in opening the home in 1988 to ease juvenile delinquents back into the community.
"To be very frank and blunt, we couldn't make the idea work . . . so we terminated the project," Jefferies said.
By May 1989, PIC was out of the Salt Lake home. But Dirks said his deal with Land Mortgage called for the company to receive 59 lease payments of $512.28 each, and that he was only able to cover a few after PIC canceled the project.
Dirks said the credit card problems also stem from the cash crunch caused by the group home problems.