The Utah Attorney General’s Office will not take any action on a formal complaint against Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson, based on its findings that the allegations against him lack a “reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
Gregory N. Ferbrache, director of the office’s justice division, informed Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald last month that two supervising prosecutors agreed “independently and collaboratively” with those findings.
Chris Baird, a former Grand County Council member who is running for a seat on the council, initially alleged that Jackson violated county bylaws — as well as state administrative and criminal code — during a public meeting in April.
But Jackson insisted that he did nothing wrong, and he alleged that Baird’s claims regarding his actions at the Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District (CHCSSD) board’s April 24 meeting were politically motivated.
Baird submitted his complaint to Fitzgerald, Grand County Sheriff Steve White and Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre. Fitzgerald subsequently forwarded the complaint on to the attorney general’s office in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
An assigned special agent with the attorney general’s office conducted an independent investigation into Baird’s allegations, and he later presented his findings to the AG’s Justice Division.
Ferbrache did not elaborate on those findings in a Sept. 24 letter to Fitzgerald.
But based on the outcome of the investigation, Jackson said he hopes that everyone will move on.
“I’m glad this chapter’s over,” he said Oct. 1.
He may be glad, but he said he’s not surprised by Ferbrache’s determination.
“I would say I was relieved, but I knew there was nothing to (Baird’s complaint) when it was filed,” Jackson said.
Baird said he’s conducted additional research since he submitted his complaint, and based on that work, he doesn’t believe that there was any “intent to harm” by Jackson.
“I’m not going to say there was no wrongdoing,” he said Oct. 1. “There was definitely wrongdoing, but it was more on the policy side.”
Baird, who was not present during the CHCSSD Board’s April 24 meeting, maintains that Jackson violated Grand County’s bylaws when he asserted that he had a right to assume an official position on the board.
“He was required by county policy to act as a member of the public, which he did not do,” Baird said.
More worrisome, he said, was the fact that Jackson gained access to confidential Canyonlands Care Center employment information during a closed board session after the regular meeting.
“Mr. Jackson had no legitimate right to access protected employment information,” Baird said in a follow-up email. “This presents a liability to the service district and / or the county, as those employees may have a right to pursue legal recourse. This element of my concern has proved to be correct.”
CHCSSD Board chairman Doug Fix initially agreed that he erred by allowing Jackson to participate in the board’s closed session that night.
“My mistake,” he said in May 14 email to CHCSSD board members.
In retrospect, though, Fix said he believes that he made the right decision that evening.
“Now that I’ve had a chance to really re-think it, I would go back to saying that was the appropriate way to handle it,” he said Oct. 6.
Jackson had pertinent information to discuss, and the board’s closed session was the appropriate place to hear that information, Fix said.
Fix had a chance to discuss his decision with the attorney general’s investigator, and he asked the investigator to consider the context of Jackson’s relationship with the facility. One of Jackson’s family members is staying at the care center, Fix noted, and one of his daughters works there.
“He’s someone who has a significant relationship with our facility,” Fix said. “Lynn really does have an interest in the care center, beyond his role as the county council’s chairman.”
Fix said he thinks that Jackson had every right to attend the closed session.
“You can maybe criticize my decision to allow him into the closed meeting, but there’s no rule that says he can’t be there,” Fix said. “The board is allowed to hear from whoever wants to make a presentation.”
As for Jackson’s behavior at the start of the board’s regular meeting that night, Fix agreed that the council chairman was very assertive. According to Fix, Jackson was “kind of pushy” when he volunteered to serve as a proxy for Grand County Council Liaison Ken Ballantyne, who was away on urgent family business.
But Jackson only made the suggestion to fill in for Ballantyne because the board lacked a quorum of voting members, and it couldn’t proceed with its meeting until one more trustee was present, Fix said.
“It was a quorum issue,” he said. “We didn’t have enough people to start the meeting, and I believe that’s why he suggested it in a fairly strong manner.”
Jackson’s offer became irrelevant as soon as a tardy board member arrived more than 10 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to begin, according to Fix.
Once the meeting began, Jackson never voted on any agenda items that came before the board, and Fix said he never considered Jackson to be a voting member.
In his mind, then, none of the actions that Jackson took that night warranted a criminal complaint.
“Chris is making something out of this that just wasn’t there,” Fix said.
“I just don’t understand all the controversy,” he added.
Based on his conversation with the attorney general’s investigator, Fix has the sense that the state prosecutor’s office seemed to agree with him.
“I think it was perceived as making a mountain out of a molehill,” Fix said. “That was my impression talking to the investigator.”
Baird, however, said he remains concerned that Jackson’s behavior exposes the county and special service district to civil liability, which could lead to a costly lawsuit.
“I think that part of the issue for me revolves around this broader issue with Lynn not following policy,” Baird said. “He’s making up his own rules at this particular special service district meeting … That’s the kind of stuff that, if it becomes a pattern over time and this is how he continues to operate, I find that unacceptable.”
Jackson, in turn, questioned how Baird found out about confidential information that came up during a closed session he did not attend.
“The whole incident to me calls into question why someone at the Canyonlands Care Center is sharing what would be considered at a private business to be internal personnel matters,” Jackson said.
Baird’s complaint, he said, is rooted in hearsay, and he questioned why Baird chose to pursue the allegations against him during campaign season.
“Why in the world would you do political mudslinging based on hearsay information?” he asked.
Attorney general says case lacks a “reasonable likelihood of conviction”