Daggett County attorney fired

Daggett attorney claims he’s been fired for doing his job

By Les Bowen for Vernal Express   |   Aug. 12, 2008   |   Original source not available

Now more than a month since being told he’s been fired, Daggett County Attorney Bryan Sidwell said he’s being fired because he was doing his job.

Sidwell told the Vernal Express in an interview last week that ever since late 2006, when county commissioners hired him, there have been those in the county who have been trying to get him removed.

The official position of the county has been to not give a reason for Sidwell’s dismissal. While the other two commissioners have stuck to that position, Daggett County Commissioner Henry Gutz has gone on record stating that the decision was not tied to a specific incident, but rather is due to Sidwell’s performance record.

But the county attorney said his performance record is glowing, and should be an indicator to officials that he has been performing his duties.

Just two weeks into the job, Sidwell said he had his first glimpse into the problems in Daggett County.

What started as a case of a county employee accused of theft from the jail commissary turned into the discovery of what the county attorney viewed as misconduct and abuse of government resources by several county leaders.

About the same time in early 2007, he said he saved the county thousands of dollars by settling a case that had already cost the county several thousand dollars. And while Sidwell said that was what he had been hired to do, he was told to stop digging into the county’s past.

“That’s when I understood how county politics here worked,” he said.

Sidwell he found a few key groups that work to protect their family and friends. He said he received pressure from government leaders to stop pursuing investigations or to not prosecute cases simply because of the social position of the alleged offenders.

“It’s about government corruption,” explained Sidwell.

But he argued that he was just doing his job.

Within a few months of being hired, Sidwell had reorganized the county’s grievance committee and put the county back on track with following its own employee grievance policies.

He began insisting that officials follow protocol and advertise position openings instead of giving them away to family and friends. He’d even found a new revenue stream from selling confiscated firearms and putting the proceeds into ammunition for the county sheriff’s office. He began enforcing the county drug testing policy and began requiring that department heads perform employee evaluations in accordance with the county’s policies.

“But everything was a fight,” said Sidwell, particularly from a group within the county that he claims want to keep the good ol’ boy system around.

He reorganized the planning and zoning process so property owners and developers had a single point of contact and received consistent information.

“People would get the runaround when they came here,” he explained. He later found that the county had been following a subdivision ordinance that hadn’t been ratified and drafted a 50-page ordinance that corrected the inconsistencies.

But in the process, Sidwell was telling county officials — from commissioners, the sheriff, clerk-auditor and treasurer on down to department heads — how to do their jobs.

More recently, he’s been pushing to consolidate the two justice courts into one. For several years, the county has operated two justice courts — one in Manila the other in Dutch John — at an annual cost of $30,000 each. But in a single year, he saw costs increase to more than $45,000 in each justice court without any increases in caseloads. Instead, he’s seen revenues drop over the same period.

“(Those in charge) don’t believe in law enforcement,” explained Sidwell. “It’s about favoritism. They all protect each other.”

And those same trends have extended into the pending voter fraud cases, said the county attorney.

“Everyone here knows about the cover-ups,” said Sidwell. “They just can’t get anyone outside the county to do anything about it.”