The. U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating Salt Lake County Council Chairman Michael Jensen for possible violations of the Hatch Act.
The act is a decades-old law designed to keep elected officials from handing out political favors. The Hatch Act prohibits federal, state and local government employees who handle federal funds from seeking partisan elected office.
Jensen is seeking a third term representing the county's west side in District 2.
The probe started after an anonymous tipster questioned Jensen's dual role as council chairman and deputy fire chief of the Unified Fire Authority.
Jensen's County Council position is just a part-time job. His day-job is what could get him into trouble. The UFA received more than $400,000 in federal grants last year.
As second-in-command at the UFA, Jensen is involved in budget decisions. But he insists he stays out of anything involving federal grants to avoid any violation of the Hatch Act.
"We've set up safeguards to make sure this wasn't an issue," Jensen said.
Jensen is careful to always note his potential conflict on any UFA decisions before the County Council and recused himself from one such vote in November.
If the U.S. Office of Special Counsel finds Jensen in violation, he could lose his UFA job, or have federal funding equivalent to two years' pay pulled from the fire department.
"There is no 'cookie cutter' we can apply in these situations, which vary widely across state and municipal governments," said Jim Mitchell, spokesman for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. "We will take a close look and provide our decision."
Jensen is seeking his third term on the council. The feds did not investigate him for Hatch Act violations in his two previous elections.
So why now? That's what Jensen wants to know.
"This has never been an issue before," Jensen said. "I just find it a little interesting."
Jensen said the complaint was filed March 21, four days after the candidate filing deadline.
The Republican Jensen will face Democrat Paul Pugmire in the November election.
Other Utah elected officials have caught the eye of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.Sen. John Greiner, R-Ogden, was ruled in violation of the act after he ran and ultimately won a seat in the state Senate while serving as chief of police for Ogden.