A complaint seeking removal of two Davis County commissioners and the county clerk will be pursued by the Weber County attorney's office, the commissioners were told this week.
The complaint, filed by a group of citizens earlier this month, was reviewed by the Davis County attorney's office and the state attorney general's staff, deputy Davis attorney Gerald Hess said.The Sept. 9 complaint charges commissioners Harold Tippetts and William Peters and former Commissioner (now the interim county clerk) Glen Saunders with various violations, ranging from misuse of public money to impeding the work of County Auditor Ruth Kennington.
Because one of the allegations in the complaint involves the Davis attorney's office, Hess said County Attorney Mel Wilson cannot pursue the prosecution, as required by the statute.
So, Hess said, the complaint was forwarded to the attorney general's office for review and an opinion on whether a special prosecutor should be named.
The attorney general's staff decided because the complaint is a civil, not criminal, matter, a special prosecutor is not called for and sent it back to Davis County with a recommendation that it be turned over to the Weber County attorney's office for action.
Hess said he and Wilson met with Weber County Attorney Reed Richards, who agreed to pursue the complaint.
Hess said the legal action, filed with 2nd District Judge Douglas Cornaby, is based on a 1953 Utah law that was amended in 1980. It allows citizens to file a complaint with the presiding district court judge charging public officials with abuse of their office.
If found guilty, the officials are removed from office, Hess said, but are not subject to criminal prosecution. The action is a civil matter, not criminal, Hess said, but requires the county attorney to investigate and prosecute it as if it were a criminal case.
That mixture of criminal and civil procedure is confusing, and the statute is somewhat unclear, Hess told the commission, so the pursuit of the complaint is being done with guidance from the district court judge and attorney general's office.
Hess said Richards met with the judge and, before agreeing to take on the complaint, wanted to make sure he would have the discretion normally given a county attorney to decide, after an investigation, if prosecution on a charge is warranted.
The judge, Hess said, indicated he will have that discretion.
Hess said because the complaint is a civil action, the commission and other people named in it have the right to take depositions from witnesses and other parties named in the action. Depositions may be taken beginning next week, he said, before an Oct. 11 court hearing set by Cornaby to review action on the complaint.