Former Development Director Don Sargent appointed to East Side Planning Commission
Sargent resigned in 2013 over alleged conflicts of interest
Former Summit County Community Development Director Don Sargent, who resigned in 2013 following an ethics investigation into his conduct as director, was appointed to serve on the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission.
On Wednesday, the Summit County Council unanimously agreed to select Sargent to serve out the remainder of Doug Clyde’s term. Clyde won a seat on the County Council and was sworn in on Jan. 4. County Council member Glenn Wright was not at the meeting.
Sargent will join Chris Ure, Tonja Hanson, Ken Henrie, Rich Sonntag, Sean Wharton and Louise Willoughby on the seven-member board. Last week, County Councilors also interviewed Calee Lott, Clinton Benson and Gale Pace for the open seat.
“I feel honored that the County Council had the confidence in me to allow me to contribute to the commission,” Sargent said. “I’m really hoping the community who was involved with that can give me a chance to demonstrate my expertise on the Planning Commission and look at things objectively from a professional standpoint because of the institutional knowledge I have in this area.”
Sargent has lived in Wanship for more than 15 years. He runs a land planning and development business in Coalville and works as a consultant for Windermere Real Estate. He worked for Summit County between 1992 and 1995 as a county planner before moving to the private sector. He returned to the county as the principal planning director in 2004 and eventually became the department head.
In 2012, Summit County resident and former East Side planning commissioner Mike Brown filed a complaint alleging he “capricious and unfair practices,” according to a letter from the Cache County Attorney’s Office. The complaint spurred an ethics investigation into the misconduct charges levied against Sargent.
Community members were concerned about Sargent’s relationship with Dave Allen, project manager for the Boyer Tech Park in the Kimball Junction area and officiant at his wedding. At the time, The Boyer Company was applying for the necessary permits to construct the first building in the tech park. Other complaints filed against Sargent included fellow employees saying they were afraid to report certain building code violations out of fear of retribution.
According to the letter from 2012, Cache County Attorney James Swink “strongly recommended” to David Brickey, former Summit County Attorney, that Sargent “be terminated from employment for his misconduct while acting as a public servant.”
However, former County Manager Bob Jasper did not follow the recommendation and Sargent later resigned amid the accusations. Sargent said the decision “greatly frustrated me.”
Sargent said the claims were later dismissed and he was cleared of the unofficial charges, however, “the damage was done.” He added, “I needed a change for me and my family. The accusations were being hurled about in a personal way and I felt the department needed a change.” Sargent was succeeded by Pat Putt.
“That last year when I was the director we had some controversial projects come to the forefront and they were based on previous development agreements. Those final decisions received all kinds of backlash,” Sargent said. “Hindsight is a great lesson, though, and I would have done some things differently, but I did what I did and I felt it was the right decision at the time.”
Sargent said he is anxious to begin lending his planning expertise to the commission to help maintain the rural community atmosphere on the East Side. His first meeting will be on March 2.
“It is really important to me and most people in the community. It comes down to balancing private property rights and organizing development in the right areas,” Sargent said. “I feel I can be completely natural and unbiased without any conflict of interest concerning the past and I look forward to working with everyone to serve the best interest of the entire community. “
Commissioners serve on a volunteer basis and are responsible for making recommendations to the County Council regarding zoning, amendments to the respective development codes and application reviews.
Chris Hague, a Park City resident, questioned the County Council’s decision to appoint Sargent. He said Sargent “attempted to intimidate several employees under him and a number of those employees are still with the Planning Department.”
Hague said in an email to The Park Record prior to Sargent’s appointment, “This is not the first time he has had the temerity to seek to be on a county commission and wield influence in our community.”
At the end of the month, the terms of Commissioners Chris Ure, Ken Henrie and Sean Wharton are also set to expire. Ure and Henrie, who are each nearing the end of their third terms, will not be eligible to reapply.
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UDOT has released a Kimball Junction Area Plan, putting price tags to proposed traffic fixes.