Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman James Evans says he "smells a rat" over the transfer of a longtime county sheriff's captain from his position overseeing law enforcement in Holladay.
The sheriff, Holladay officials and even the top cop in question have denied the allegations.
Capt. Steve DeBry is the GOP candidate challenging Democratic Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi this year. County Sheriff Jim Winder is a Democrat, like Horiuchi. Holladay contracts with the county for its law enforcement, and DeBry has been the captain overseeing that Holladay area for some time.
While the sheriff's office and Holladay City Manager Randy Fitts say DeBry's reassignment comes because of a retirement of another top sheriff's officer, Evans isn't buying it. In a news release, he pointed at Democratic members of the County Council, as well as Winder and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, for making "a clumsy attempt to hurt someone who threatens their position."
"Those involved in politics don't believe in coincidences," Evans said in release. "What you are seeing is how Democrats use their power. They punish their opposition."
Evans said he'll ask a party attorney to look into the matter. DeBry and Horiuchi won their party's nominations in recent conventions and now face each other in November.
In response, Winder said the county Republican Party leader is being "extremely disingenuous" and is spinning an issue that is "clearly not one of politics." He also called for an apology from Evans, claiming that the accusations besmirch both his department and Holladay officials.
For his part, DeBry said that he did not want the transfer to become political. The only aspect of his work that he does want to be an issue in the campaign is his experience in the sheriff's office.
"I've never wanted my candidacy for the Salt Lake County Council to impact my position with the sheriff's office or that organization," he said.
Holladay announced in a Friday press release that its city manager, Fitts, requested the change. Fitts, also a Republican, adamantly denies the request was political, but rather part of on-going discussions with the sheriff's department.
"I would sue people if they said this," he said.
Holladay Mayor Dennis Webb also said the county race was in no way a factor. Discussions about the transfer had been on the table for months.
"There are no ghosts here," he said.DeBry has been reassigned to the East Millcreek area. As a captain, he has achieved the highest possible rank in the sheriff's department without being in an elected position.