Are small-town animosities to blame for several misdemeanor charges recently filed against Bluffdale City Councilman Greg Wolfley?
The first-term councilman believes his ongoing battle to improve operations at City Hall has made him enemies who are behind the 34 class B misdemeanor counts filed in Bluffdale's Justice Court.The various criminal complaints against him are politically motivated and simply aren't true, said Wolfley.
Prosecutor Keith Stoney, who screened the case, said he was doing his job as the city's part-time attorney in filing the complaint, emphasizing his decision has nothing to do with local politics.
"These are violations by someone who knew the law," Stoney said.
Most of the counts against Wolfley allege the councilman is making additions to his home and constructing a hay shed in violation of Bluffdale's building code, making home additions without a building permit, operating his landscaping company without a proper business license and parking a semitrailer advertising his business in violation of city zoning ordinances.
"These aren't capital crimes," said Stoney but adds they are violations that need to be addressed.
Stoney said he is most concerned with the single count of "interference with a public servant" filed against Wolfley.
The complaint alleges that Wolfley contacted City Recorder Connie Rice last March "and using his authority as a city councilman told her that the building inspector was not to inspect his property, that another unqualified person would do it."
The building inspector was Rice's husband, Gerrald Rice, and the "unqualified person" cited in the complaint is Bluffdale Mayor Noell Nelson, Stoney said.
Wolfley dismisses the interference count as "pure lies, pure fabrication."
The mayor said Wolfley simply wanted his help to find an inspector other than Gerrald Rice. Nelson said he had no intention to conduct the inspection himself.
"I couldn't do that and wouldn't do that," the mayor said.
As for the other charges, Wolfley said he understands he is possibly "technically in violation" for making additions to his home without a permit but adds any violation was based on bad information from the city.
Wolfley said he hasn't wanted to take out a loan to finance his house, so he builds his home gradually as money becomes available. When Gerrald Rice approved the home for occupancy several years ago, Wolfley said there was an understanding that his building permit would be kept open.
Earlier this year, the councilman got a copy of a letter saying he was in violation, but Wolfley said he wasn't concerned because of his earlier understanding with Rice.
"I feel like I was set up," Wolfley said.
The councilman also challenges the other charges, saying he has a permit for the hay shed and denies running his landscaping business out of his home.
Wolfley said his business, Silverleaf Landscaping, is based out of Riverton, where he has an office and a full-time secretary. Wolfley said he does grow trees and shrubs used in his business on his Bluffdale property and parks trucks in personal storage but doesn't feel that is a problem because his home and property are zoned for agriculture.
It's a matter that should be decided by the city's planing and zoning commission, not a justice of the peace, Wolfley said.
The councilman said the recent complaints are prompted by animosities between him and Gerrald and Connie Rice.
Wolfley said he believes Gerrald Rice, whom he defeated in his City Council campaign, has abused his building inspection tasks and said Connie Rice practices nepotism by hiring her husband for local inspections.
Not so, said Connie Rice, adding her husband has been appointed by the mayor and City Council to serve as Bluffdale's building inspector.
Connie Rice said that to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, she generally doesn't deal with city building permits.
Wolfley said the city recorder's "intense dislike" for him is because he's acted to "take a stand against things happening" in the city offices, saying Connie Rice treats residents poorly.
The longtime city recorder insists she has no hard feelings toward Wolfley and disagrees with his claims that she is difficult for Bluffdale folks to work with.
Meanwhile, Nelson said he believes all affected parties are dealing with issues that have gotten out of hand. "I think we'll get this ironed out," he said.
Although no appearance dates have been scheduled, the legal matter will have to be conducted in a justice court outside of Bluffdale because of Wolfley's City Council position, Stoney said.