East Side mayors furious over county law enforcement proposal
February 20, 2014
In a tense and emotion-filled Council of Governments meeting on Tuesday, East Side mayors said they were incensed by a county proposal that would require their towns to pay for county law enforcement services that they already receive. As per state statute, however, those towns are required to provide for local law enforcement.
A letter was sent last month by Summit County Manager Bob Jasper to Coalville Mayor Trever Johnson, Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard, Francis Mayor R. Lee Snelgrove, Kamas Mayor Lewis Marchant and Oakley Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme stating the Summit County Sheriff’s Office currently provides municipal law enforcement services to towns that do not pay into the Municipal Fund.
Included was a draft of an interlocal agreement for law enforcement services, which mentioned the state statutes which require municipalities to provide for law enforcement and defined the limits of service the county would provide.
Jasper and county officials had hoped to make progress on the details of the interlocal agreement, but were met with fierce opposition to both the proposal and how it was pitched. Ovard had choice words for Jasper.
"We have not had an interlocal agreement [for law enforcement] in Henefer in 115 years," Ovard said. "[You] should have had some preparation before you dropped that [letter] in the mail. Wouldn’t you think you should have sat down with the mayors first?"
In his defense, Jasper said it is a matter of fairness.
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"We have a number of cities that don’t pay anything [for law enforcement]. That’s unequal," Jasper said. "I’m not throwing out a specific amount [for cities to pay], but I think there should be some sort of agreement. We need to work on this issue, resolve it and put it to bed."
Jasper admitted the issue first arose at the behest of Summit County Councilman Dave Ure, who has been concerned about the inequity of those who pay into the Municipal Fund for more than three years.
"About two years ago, Sheriff [Dave] Edmunds was sitting right here next to me. We were going to sit down with municipalities [to talk about this]," Ure said. "I was told, ‘Don’t bother coming, save your breath and your gas,’ [by] Mayor Ovard."
Woolstenhulme maintained that Oakley and other East Side towns already have an agreement with the sheriff to patrol their areas.
"He’s an elected official. If we have an agreement with him, it’s valid," Woolstenhulme said.
Jasper doubted that such an agreement existed, since Edmunds was advising him on the issue. He added that the sheriff has no authority to sign contracts. Controlling the sheriff’s resources, he said, is necessary to provide checks and balances.
Marchant asked whether the sheriff has the discretion for where he provides law enforcement, to which Jasper answered, "Yes, but the Council controls his purse strings."
Johnson said that his cousin is the undersheriff of Malheur County in Vale, Ore., which is slightly larger than Coalville, and that the city writes a check to the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office for the services it receives. He asked whether East Side towns might be able to do the same, though Jasper said the Sheriff’s Office would just give the check to the County Treasurer, which manages its funds.
Marchant and other mayors also contested the numbers the county provided in how many calls the Sheriff’s Office responded to over the years. He called the numbers "bogus" and said that the Kamas Police Department often is the first responder to incidents even outside the municipal boundaries.
"I’m totally offended by this [proposal]," Marchant said. "I think the timing of this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s an election year – you’ll have a new sheriff that you say needs to be involved in this."
Ovard’s anger surpassed Marchant’s.
"It’s the maddest I’ve been in eight years of being a mayor," Ovard said. "You expected me to walk in here after 15 minutes of reading this [and sign it]? Anybody that would sign this with zero preparation would be nuts."
Ure stressed that his original intent was to make the East Side mayors part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and to allow the sheriff to sit down and discuss each town’s law enforcement needs.
"There were not any hard, fast dollars drawn up," Ure said. "It was the principle involved."
Johnson did not disagree with the principle, but said it was communicated in a different manner.
"What it was sold as was that there was a concern about the cities not following the law and that there was a shortage of funds," Johnson said. "It wasn’t made a matter of principle."
Johnson moved to table the interlocal agreement until a new sheriff is elected, which passed with one dissenting vote from County Councilwoman Kim Carson, who said that current Sheriff Dave Edmunds’ expertise could be utilized in the meantime.
Summit County Councilman Roger Armstrong said he will encourage discussions on the issue to continue, even though the agreement was tabled.
"There is some unfairness here," Armstrong said, referring to those in unincorporated parts of the county who pay more in taxes and do not receive services. "The degree of the unfairness, we can discuss [later]. We can table it tonight, but this shouldn’t go away."