SALT LAKE CITY — The Unified Fire Authority board met in a closed session Tuesday to review the Utah attorney general's investigative report regarding the authority's former bosses' spending, but it delayed any decision to pursue litigation until at least next month.
After the 45-minute closed session, the agency's board chairman, Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle, said he and other board members are "disappointed" in prosecutors' decision not to pursue criminal charges against the agency's former chief, Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen, and his former deputy, Gaylord Scott.
"I think it's appropriate to say that our board's disappointed that (prosecutors) didn't feel like it reached that far," Dahle said.
State investigators last week released a 196-page report that details the attorney general's findings of the investigation into the two former chiefs.
The report includes interviews with dozens of witnesses who described not only concerns about misuse of public funds, but also allegations of a pattern of abuse of power for personal gain and that the men created a "culture of fear" at the fire department by being "vindictive" and "intimidating," one employee told investigators.
But prosecutors determined it would be "unlikely" that criminal charges against Jensen and Scott could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, citing a "loose" agency governance structure that ultimately approved "exorbitant bonuses, reimbursement for personal vacations attached to official travel, and purchase of electronic equipment for personal use," among other issues.
The investigation into Jensen and Scott, who both resigned as the controversy began unfolding more than two years ago, came after State Auditor John Dougall's office concluded an audit of the agency and recommended a criminal investigation.
Citing thousands of dollars in concerning purposes — from expensive meals to extended conference trips, to thousands spent on iPads, Apple watches, Nikon cameras, and iMacs — along with thousands more in questionable "incentive" pay, auditors also recommend that the agency pursue litigation to recoup at least $370,000 Jensen and Scott allegedly received or spent improperly.
Dahle said the board has been waiting for the attorney general's findings before deciding whether to pursue litigation, and Tuesday the mayor said the board still needs time to go through the nearly 200-page report to determine its next steps.
"There's enough there that we're really not prepared to make a definitive statement on how we intend to proceed," Dahle said.
The board plans to refer the report to a finance committee, which will work with attorneys and the agency's new chief, Dan Petersen, to decide "what we feel is appropriate to pursue, if anything, civilly," Dahle said.6 comments on this story
Next steps are expected to be discussed in the board's next meeting in October.
Jensen did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.
The former chief, who is currently a sitting county councilman and a board member of the powerful Utah Inland Port Authority, has faced calls for his resignation since the release of the investigative report.
Scott's attorney, Richard Van Wagoner, when reached Tuesday said he was not aware of the meeting or any possible litigation, so he declined comment until he could get more information.