After several weeks of wrangling, Salt Lake County Attorney Doug Short has given up his legal challenge to the County Commission's splitting of his office.
In a settlement agreement to be signed Friday by 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder, Short has agreed to abandon his opposition to the commission's transfer of about half his attorneys to a newly created Office of Legal Counsel under the commission's exclusive control."We didn't have any choice," Short said. "The way the court was handling the case there was no way we could get through it before the end of the year," when Short leaves office.
"I think it was a good move for all parties," agreed one of Short's attorneys, Larry Jenkins. "The chances of getting (Judge Hilder's ruling) reversed were not great for the four months remaining."
In June the County Commission put half of Short's deputy county attorneys under its own control, citing continual obstruction and legal hair-splitting by Short that complicated the county's legal business as well as complaints from deputy attorneys that Short's office was in disarray.
In July Hilder ruled that the brute-force solution to the problem was legal, but Short had continued to challenge the action, both in court and by refusing in various ways to cooperate with the transferred attorneys.
In exchange for Short's acquiescence, the commission has agreed to give up an attempt to hold him in contempt of a ruling Hilder issued last November saying Short represents both the county and the officers of the county.
Nevertheless, the commission is free to revive its contempt action if Short doesn't abide by terms of the settlement.
"There's a great incentive for Doug to comply with this new settlement agreement," commission attorney Randy Dryer said. "I think this time it's going to stick."
Previous armistices between Short and the commission have fallen through.
Although the agreement settles the legality of the transfer of Short's attorneys, there still are court fights pending between Short and the commission. Short's appeal to the Utah Supreme Court of Hilder's November ruling remains alive, as well as a dispute over who represents the county in the Midvale development Fort Union Associates lawsuit.
Well over $200,000 in taxpayer money has been spent on outside attorneys fighting the Short/county commission battles.