Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald last week referred a complaint of misconduct regarding Grand County Council chair Lynn Jackson to the office of the Utah Attorney General for investigation.
Fitzgerald said the action was taken in response to information given to his office, as well as to the Grand County Sheriff, and Moab City Chief of Police, on Tuesday, Aug. 26, by Moab resident and Grand County Council candidate Chris Baird.
In the letter he submitted, Baird asserted that Jackson, purportedly under his authority as the chairman of the Grand County Council, gained access to a closed on April 24 meeting of the Administrative Control Board of the Canyonlands Healthcare Special Service District in violation of the Policies and Procedures of the Governing Body of Grand County, Utah Administrative Code (UAC), and the Utah Criminal Code.
The letter states that eyewitness reports, substantiated by the approved minutes of the meeting, show that Jackson assumed County Council member Ken Ballantyne’s official position on the CHSSD administrative control board, a separate and distinct political subdivision from Grand County, by indicating that as the chairman of the Grand County Council, he had the authority to do so. In the letter, Baird said that eyewitnesses told him that Jackson was quite forceful in this assertion.
“Mr. Jackson crossed the line by abusing his position as chair of the Grand County Council in order to gain illegitimate access to a closed meeting,” Baird said.
Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said that because Jackson is a County Council member, that he, Grand County Sheriff Steve White, and Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre decided to forward the information to the Utah Attorney General’s Office, to let them “evaluate or investigate the merit of the claims.”
“Depending on what the AG finds, we’re looking at possible ethics violations, as well as liability to the county,” Fitzgerald said. “There are also possible criminal issues.”
Jackson responded that the allegations are part of a “campaign of defamation of character and libel,” by Baird. Jackson said another Moab resident, Bill Love, undertook a similar effort last year regarding Jackson’s outside consulting work.
“Those allegations proved baseless,” Jackson said. “I am confident that will also be the outcome of Baird’s latest attack.”
Baird, in his letter, cites the Policies and Procedures of the Governing Body of Grand County which state: “Council Members who are not appointed representatives are encouraged to attend any Board or Commission meeting for informational purposes and should notify the Council Representative of their interest to attend. Council Members not appointed as Council Representatives attending these meetings shall participate as members of the public.”
The procedures further state: “The Chair does not represent the Council as a whole body unless directed by the majority of the Council Members during a meeting and is subject to all of the provisions of Section B of this document.”
The core of the allegations involve Jackson’s participation in a closed session of the meeting that only appointed representatives and board members were allowed to attend.
Baird, in his letter, recommends that the Grand County Council request an investigation from the UAG into Jackson’s actions and motivations, at the April 24 CHSSD meeting, with specific interest in whether he “engaged in official misconduct and/or unofficial misconduct with the intention of harming the employment status or reputation of any CHSSD employee; whether his motivations were nepotistic in nature; and whether or not he is in violation of closed meetings law if he illegitimately gained access to the closed meeting through beguilement, official misconduct, or unofficial misconduct.”
Jackson dismissed the allegations as being being politically motivated.
“At this point it should be evident to all what Baird is doing, and it has little to do with running an honorable campaign of issues and positions and letting the voters decide in November,” he said. “I think this is unfortunate, and simply mudslinging and character assassination of the worst order.”
County chair says misconduct claims are baseless and politically motivated