Utah County Democrats will ask 4th District judges to call for a grand jury investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing at the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center.
Delegates to the county Democratic Party's nominating convention Saturday passed a resolution calling on local party leaders to write all 4th District judges requesting that a grand jury be called.The resolution and candidate speeches made Saturday confirmed that local Democrats think Timp Mental Health may be the issue they need to make a strong comeback in 1988, after years of being shut out of elective office in Utah County government.
"Some 13 federal and state agencies are ready to pounce on Timp Mental Health," said Carl Nemelka, chairman of the county Democratic Party's resolutions committee.
"A grand jury would be required to report its findings and any indictments could be prosecuted right here in the 4th District."
Nemelka, a former prosecutor now in private legal practice, said his opinion is that a grand jury investigation of the center would take precedence over all other investigations.
Probes of Timp Mental Health by various state and federal agencies likely would be delayed until the grand jury investigation was completed, he said.
The resolution passed on a voice vote with a single delegate of the several hundred in attendance opposing the action.
Under current Utah statutes, a grand jury is impaneled when a group of judges meets to hear evidence and determines that sufficient cause exists to have a citizen panel make further investigation. A group of citizens is then selected to hear evidence behind closed doors, and determines whether the defendant should be held for a felony trial.
Eight top administrators of the Provo mental health facility were suspended last month after a legislative auditor general's report alleged they mismanaged and misused more than $3.5 million in public money.
They were accused of awarding themselves contracts to provide services and facilities to the center, receiving fraudulent car allowances and expense- account claims and making excessive credit-card purchases.
Criticism of the county's all-Republican commission for the Timp scandal came from nearly every convention speaker - from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson on down.
The message was clear. Democrats intend to hit Utah County Republican candidates hard on the Timp Mental Health issue during the campaign.
The scandal is already causing some disarray on the Republican side. Friday, Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson withdrew from a re-election bid, citing Timp Mental Health as one of several reasons.
Anderson had been for several years the County Commission's representative on the three-member board responsible for overseeing the mental health center. The alleged mismanagement occurred during his tenure on the oversight board and he had come under fire as a result.
Anderson's withdrawal leaves two more Republicans seeking the commission's two-year seat, but Anderson was considered by far the strongest GOP candidate.
Saturday, Democrats nominated Glen Hawkins, of Benjamin, to run for the 2-year commission seat. His nomination by acclamation came after Gene Faux, Springville, withdrew from the race during a convention speech and urged delegates to nominate Hawkins.
In an acceptance speech, Hawkins promised to push for a thorough audit of every county government department should he be elected.