Cop faces off with attorney
A police officer in Park City claims he didn’t intend to strain relations between his department and Summit County Attorney David Brickey when he accused Brickey last month of voter fraud.
"That’s a crime, that’s a class A misdemeanor, and I think that’s what the attorney general’s office is investigating now," claimed Park City Detective Michael Fierro in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Fierro, however, attempted to distance himself from his employer in a written complaint he lodged about Brickey with Summit County Clerk Sue Follett.
"I want to state unequivocally that this matter is being pursued by me as a private citizen and (a real) resident of Summit County and in no way is this part of my official responsibilities and duties as a Park City police officer," a copy of Fierro’s letter to Follett dated Nov. 13 states.
Brickey broke the law by "swearing and affirming" that his primary residence was in Park City when he registered to vote, according to Fierro.
Brickey caught flak after a recent stakeout by television reporters showed Brickey allegedly spending nights with his wife and children at a house he owns in Salt Lake City.
Elected officials should live in the same counties as their constituents, critics charged.
"The media reports have shown conclusively, in my opinion, that Mr. Brickey is not residing in Summit County and I am dismayed that his actions have been characterized as simply not abiding by ‘the letter of the law,’" Fierro’s letter states.
According to Fierro, he would have complained about Brickey allegedly violating the residency requirements for candidates to the Utah Attorney General’s Office had Utah County resident Jason Taylor not filed a similar grievance.
"I did not make an official complaint on that. I was aware of the situation, but fortunately, Brody Taylor’s brother was the one who made the complaint," Fierro said.
Hoytsville resident Brody Taylor lost the election in November to incumbent Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds.
The state is investigating whether Brickey has complied with the residency law, Utah Attorney General’s Office spokesman Paul Murphy said Thursday.
"We won’t have anything to report until the investigation is complete," Murphy said.
Meanwhile, Brickey, who says he resides in a condominium in Old Town, insists he should vote in Park City.
"It’s up to the individual to decide where they reside and not a police officer," he said. "Clearly, I think there is no validity or foundation to support these allegations."
Brickey is frustrated by an alleged leak of information from the ranks of the Park City Police Department to the media that criticized him for declining to prosecute some cases.
Fierro denied that he was the leak’s source.
"I was not aware of that I can guarantee you that Mr. Brickey will attribute that to me," Fierro said. "I’ve already kind of been through heat over the complaint that I did make."
The sides won’t speculate about the potential effects the dispute could have on the critical relationship between the police and the prosecutors in Brickey’s office. Prosecutors decide which of the cases investigated by detectives are filed as formal charges.
"We don’t want anything to occur that is going to jeopardize our relationship with the Summit County Attorney’s Office," Park City police Lt. Rick Ryan said. "It would cause a cloud over this department."
Ryan wasn’t aware this week of any officers who have disparaged Brickey, the county’s top law-enforcement official, to reporters.
At issue is whether Brickey is soft on crime because of his response to a case that involved the alleged embezzlement of money from a church in Park City to which Fierro was assigned as the lead investigator.
Brickey insists he didn’t have enough information to charge suspects in the case.
"The last thing I want to do is to be living in a police state, but that does not mean we ignore officers," he said, adding that cases from officers in Park City have been declined because they lacked evidence. "We have a very high standard. You have to have a reasonable belief of success at trial."
His working relationship with Brickey, however, isn’t as rocky as it might seem, Fierro said.
"We’ve had some problems, but nothing that I think is insurmountable," he said. "[Officers] are bound to acquiesce to the decisions of the county attorney’s office."
The position of city officials concerning Brickey’s prosecution rate is clear, Park City Manager Tom Bakaly said, adding, "We do not have an issue with the prosecution rate of the county attorney’s office."
"The fact that the county attorney would attribute possible hearsay and comments from a police officer as the position of the city is somewhat surprising," Bakaly said. "We’re a little surprised by his reaction."
City officials aren’t currently investigating whether an officer leaked information to the media, Park City police Chief Lloyd Evans said.
"We don’t know if an officer said that or not, and even if they did, to attribute that as our official position, is disappointing," Bakaly said, adding that the city has no opinion about whether Brickey complies with the state’s residency requirements.
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Park City’s late fire chief Paul Hewitt was remembered for his desire to help others, largeness of spirit and improbable feats during a public memorial Thursday.