Carbon County Sheriff Barry Bryner is probably feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Since Wednesday morning, Bryner, 40, has been charged with two crimes, including one felony; has been stripped of his peace officer powers, and has been called to face the Carbon County Commission which wants to suspend him and withhold his pay.Not to mention, he also faces permanent decertification from Peace Officers Standards and Training, the state department that certifies law enforcement officers, for other alleged misconduct.
Bryner's tumultuous career took another strange twist Wednesday when POST stripped him of his law enforcement powers - the first time POST has taken such an action. It was a temporary measure short of permanent decertification.
Meanwhile, the Carbon County Commission called a special session for 8 p.m. Thursday to suspend Bryner without pay and to appoint a temporary acting sheriff, said County Clerk Norm Prichard. Prichard said the meeting will be an open session.
According to Carbon County Commissioner William Krompel, the sheriff can be removed only for malfeasance in office or conviction of a criminal act. The suspension and withholding of pay is an interim step until the criminal charges against Bryner are resolved.
Bryner was arrested after leading several officers on a chase between Helper and Price early Wednesday and then holding officers at bay for nearly two hours before being subdued.
Bryner, who is being held in his room under armed guard, is listed in fair condition at Castleview Hospital with minor injuries. He was expected to be released Thursday.
Charges of failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop, a third-degree felony; and DUI, a Class B misdemeanor, were filed against him Wednesday in connection with the incident. He was to be arraigned Thursday afternoon on those charges before 7th Circuit Court Judge Bryce K. Bryner, according to the Carbon County attorney's office.
POST Director Clyde Palmer said Bryner's powers will remain suspended as long as he is perceived as a risk to the community. "This had to be done. He's getting too dangerous . . . ." said Palmer of the administrative action taken by POST.
POST is already reviewing whether Bryner should continue his job based on earlier complaints by Carbon County commissioners, residents and sheriff's office personnel accusing him of mishandling his duties, including having an affair with a dispatcher.
Bryner's attorney, Ronald J. Yengich, has until March 24 to file a brief with the administrative law judge hearing his case, after which the judge will recommend to POST officials, who will decide whether to force Bryner out of office. Bryner's latest troubles will not be considered in the decision.
They, however, will be the focus of a second administrative review involving the failure to respond and DUI charges - if, that is, Bryner chooses to contest POST's latest action.
"This is kind of like a new case," Palmer said, drawing the analogy to someone who is out on bail for one crime and commits another.
Wednesday's incident began about 2:36 a.m. when Price police officer Charlotte Sawyer observed a car being driven erratically on Main Street. When Sawyer attempted to pull the car over, the driver instead increased speed and tried to flee. The Price officer was joined by Carbon County sheriff's deputies, Wellington officers, and Utah Highway Patrol troopers during the 14-minute chase.
The car drove southeast through nearby Wellington before it spun around in the road and reversed direction. Officers continued the pursuit back toward Price when the driver apparently lost control just south of the city and the car skidded over a steep embankment, coming to rest in heavy brush. The driver crawled out of the vehicle and fled into a nearby wooded area.
About 10 officers and deputies surrounded the area. Chief Deputy Sheriff Jerald Cowan said Bryner talked to the officers although they could not see him well. Cowan was allowed to walk to the area where Bryner was hiding and the two began talking. Cowan said Price Police Chief Aleck Shilaos surprised Bryner and the two men subdued Bryner.
During the chase, a license plate check revealed that the vehicle was Bryner's unmarked car. After being subdued, Bryner was arrested and taken to the hospital for treatment and observation.
Only last week, Bryner, who has admitted to lies and sexual misconduct, was expelled from the Utah Sheriff's Association and encouraged to resign.
"The Utah Sheriff's Association will not tolerate the degradation of this office by any member. We abhor his admitted actions," said Duchesne County Sheriff Clair Poulson, association president.
Bryner's trouble began last March when a state-appointed team launched a management audit after controversy erupted over his hiring and firing practices. Although the audit report concluded that while law enforcement in Carbon County was "unfortunate," it did not suggest the sheriff be removed from office.
Palmer said complaints about the sheriff's office continued, however, prompting POST's investigation.
Bryner blamed his problems on the fact his opponent in the 1986 sheriff's race was Charles Semken, brother of County Commissioner Lee Semken.>