The Davis County auditor Tuesday denied charges she has abused her office, saying they are part of a politically motivated attack, and vowed to continue in her role as the county's fiscal watchdog.
Auditor Ruth Kennington also said she has retained an attorney at her own expense and is seeking legal guidance on how to continue to carry out the duties assigned to her under state law.Charging that Kennington had abused her office and failed to carry out her duties, the three county commissioners last week announced she was being relieved of her internal-auditing duties, which will be turned over to a private accounting firm.
And, the commissioners voted Monday to eliminate the funding for one internal-auditor position in Kennington's office, in effect firing auditor Jim Larson. Larson used county time and equipment to compose faked letters to editors of various weekly and daily newspapers defending Kennington, the commissioners said, with Kennington's knowledge.
"I categorically and unequivocally deny any wrongdoing, criminal or civil," Kennington said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of doing my job. An auditor who is the watchdog for public expenditures is never popular with those whom she audits."
Kennington said Commissioner Harold Tippetts, defeated for re-election in the September primary election, is bitter and trying to blame his loss on her.
She said his "most recent charges against me, made only in the press and not in any other forum, show him to be bitter, vindictive and mean-spirited."
She called Tippetts' charges against her "simply preposterous. His most recent tirade in the press is a sign of a bitter man whose sole purpose appears to be pulling others down into muck and mire with him."
"It is a shame that a man of such high stature in county government should stoop so low," Kennington said.
The battle between Kennington and the commissioners has been going on for more than a year, almost since she took office in January 1987.
The commissioners say they have repeatedly asked Kennington to perform internal audits on all county departments, in addition to carrying out her duties as the county's chief budget officer.
Kennington, however, maintains the commissioners have refused to supply her with the necessary personnel or equipment to do the job.
In September, four days before the primary, a citizens complaint filed in 2nd District Court charged commissioners Tippetts, William Peters, and Glen Saunders, former commissioner and now interim county clerk, with several crimes, ranging from malfeasance and misuse of county funds to interfering with Kennington's duties.
Preparing their reply, the commissioners took legal depositions from Kennington and Larson, turning up the false letters-to-the-editor incidents and other instances of what the commissioners and County Attorney Mel Wilson said are abuse by Kennington of her office, duties, and county resources.
Wilson said he, in turn, is investigating possible criminal charges resulting from the information in the depositions and plans to file a court motion this week asking that the complaint be dismissed for lack of merit.
"From the time I was elected Davis County auditor and took office in January of 1987, it has been, and still is, my sole intent and purpose to perform my public duties as required by statute with dispatch, integrity and professionalism," Kennington said.
Regarding the legal complaint against the commission, Kennington publicly has denied any responsibility but, in her deposition, admitted to attending meetings with the complaint's initiators and supplying documents and information to them, according to the county attorney.
Kennington said she will make no further public statements about either the complaint or her relationship with the initiators and added she has retained the attorney to "assist and protect the county auditor's office and me from these unfounded and vile accusations."
"I am confident that the public will see this dispute between the Davis County Commission and the county auditor for what it is, a callous attempt by men in high public office to publicly discredit a fellow elected official through innuendo and false accusations.
"The citizens of Davis County entrusted me with this office and I, in turn, will trust in their good judgment," Kennington said.