MANILA, Daggett County — Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen resigned Sunday amid controversy over allegations of misconduct at the county jail.
But Chad Woolley, with the Daggett County Attorney's Office, said Monday that it would be wrong for the public to assume Jorgensen did something wrong just because he is stepping down.
"They should not think that. I don't believe he did anything wrong," Woolley said. "The sheriff is a good man. We love him. He's a great guy. He felt like he was helping the county out by resigning, (helping) them to move forward."
In fact, it was Jorgensen who requested in January that the Department of Corrections launch an investigation into "possible mistreatment of inmates," according to a statement from the sheriff's office.
"He recognized the allegations as very serious and took decisive action," according to the statement.
Jorgensen's resignation marks the latest departure of officials from the sheriff's office and Daggett County Jail since the Department of Corrections pulled all its state inmates out of the facility.
Last week, jail commander Lt. Ben Lail submitted his resignation, and two corrections officers were fired.
On Friday, Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook characterized the allegations of misconduct among jail employees as "distressing" and said the case has been turned over to the Utah Attorney General's Office.
"These are serious, criminal allegations involving unprofessional conduct and unacceptable correctional practices, which put the inmates and the public in jeopardy," Cook said in a prepared statement.
As of Monday, no one had said what type of misconduct was allegedly occurring.
In February, approximately 80 inmates were moved out of the jail and into the state prison.
Jorgensen's nearly 40-year career in law enforcement included almost 15 years with the Department of Corrections, where he served as warden and deputy warden before retiring in 2005 and moving to Daggett County.
Ironically, he became the jail commander in 2007 after two inmates — both convicted killers — escaped and allegations of mismanagement came to light.
Fallout from that incident resulted in the immediate removal of all state inmates from the jail, a legislative audit of Utah's jail contracting program, and a security review by the Utah Department of Corrections that revealed "systemic" and "significant" problems at the facility.
"He came in and did an excellent job getting the jail running smoothly and great and so forth," said Woolley, calling Jorgensen a "great administrator."
Jorgensen was elected sheriff in 2010 and re-elected in the 2014.
According to a prepared statement from the Daggett County Sheriff's Office, Jorgensen served with "honor and integrity."
"We wish him the best. He will be missed," the statement reads. The sheriff's office also noted that Jorgensen's resignation was "completely voluntary."
Woolley said that in order for the county to get past this incident, he believes Jorgensen wanted to remove any possible or perceived roadblocks.
"He felt like it would allow the county to move forward with taking care of stuff they need to do," he said.
"He felt a clean break with a new sheriff would facilitate that more quickly," according to the prepared statement from the sheriff's office.
Woolley said the Daggett County Commission is expected to name a temporary replacement for Jorgensen at its meeting Tuesday.
Capt. Chris Collett will be in charge of the sheriff's office until then.
The housing of state inmates is crucial to Daggett County's economy. The state's smallest county typically receives between $110,000 and $115,000 per month to house state inmates. The county has lost more than $200,000 since the inmates were removed.
Annually, state payments for jail inmates make up nearly 30 percent of the county's revenue — or about $1.4 million in 2016, according to Utah's transparency website.