Matt Brooks has been sworn in as the new Grand County Deputy Attorney, a position that up until this year didn’t exist.
Originally from Holladay, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Brooks didn’t have to move very far. He was still answering the phone as the deputy county attorney in San Juan County in early January, where he worked under attorney Kendall Laws. He was sworn in as the deputy attorney in Grand County on Jan. 22.
“It wasn’t a far move, 56 miles, and the wind blows a lot less here and it’s warmer,” Brooks said of his recent move to Moab.
At the Grand County Attorney’s Office on Thursday, Jan. 31, Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan joked that San Juan County lost Brooks to Moab because of mountain biking. Brooks laughed, saying that a running joke has been that he went to Moab to pursue its trails.
“I was given crap, like you’re just moving there so you can mountain bike every night, because they know I like to bike,” Brooks said. “Would I move here and take a different job just to mountain bike? Not even close. So they joke with me about that.”
The truth is, Brooks said, he likes the work he does as an attorney. He’s entering his fourth year as a practicing attorney, having kicked off his career in San Juan County with handling cases in 7th District Court in Monticello.
“I wouldn’t come here just because of the mountain biking because that’s an activity, I have to like my job,” Brooks said. “I just love this work. I always wanted a job where I didn’t hate my job and I could go to work and like it every day, and I love this so it’s a good fit for me.”
Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder reiterated excitement for the new deputy attorney.
“I have had an opportunity to spend significant time with Mr. Brooks since he joined the Grand County Attorney’s Office,” Winder said in an email to the Moab Sun News on Feb. 5. “His energy, commitment and willingness to engage in positive and constructive communication has already enhanced the relationship with one of our most important partners, the Grand County Attorney’s Office. We are very excited about the future.”
In Grand County, Brooks’ workload consists of the entire criminal docket. Sloan said she is focusing her legal expertise — she’s been a practicing attorney in the community for 12 years — on supporting the county and its council on civil matters like land-use disputes and real estate.
Sloan said Brook’s work in San Juan County is “perfect experience.”
“I think it’s appropriate to talk about San Juan,” Sloan said. “I think he got perfect experience in San Juan because there are very similar issues with a lot of the same places — the same defense council, the same judge, but he had a smaller docket and he was working with Kendall.”
Several months ago, Laws asked Grand County to review a criminal investigation into San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson after he admitted to a federal judge that he backdated a document in the Willie Grayeyes case and then used it to send a letter to Grayeyes.
A criminal investigation is to look into whether the clerk’s actions were a mistake, or whether there was an intent to carry out the falsification. Brooks said that as San Juan County’s deputy attorney, he had no involvement in the case; he also was not involved in asking Grand County to review the investigation.
Sloan indicated that Grand County should not have become involved in the investigation in San Juan County.
“San Juan County is our sister county,” Sloan said. “Part of our Moab community lives in San Juan County. The county attorney’s office can in certain circumstances work closely with the county attorney’s office in San Juan County. Our law enforcement in certain cases works closely with law enforcement in San Juan County. So in my opinion, it’s impossible to have an unbiased investigation and screening of the charges, which was Andrew (Fitzgerald)’s role. So it should never of been in Grand County.”
“I was never subpoenaed for anything,” Brooks said. “That’s how little I had to do with it. I was never given a subpoena to go to any of these trials. If I had involvement, they would have subpoenaed me and said, why did you send Colby Turk to go investigate Grayeyes? But nobody did because I had no involvement with that. I’m so far removed from this whole thing.”
Grand County’s investigation into San Juan County was closed before Brooks was hired.
“The investigation was completed Dec. 21,” Sloan said. “Which was weeks before we hired Matt. …The (Grand County) council meeting was the second and we hired him on the third. It was weeks before he was hired by Grand County and at the point of his hiring the investigation was closed.”
Sloan worked with Grand County Clerk Chris Baird and Fitzgerald to create the new deputy attorney position. Previously, work was contracted to outside legal services. Sloan said Grand County is unique in that way, and that most other counties have at least one deputy county attorney.
“The deputy services line item has always existed in our budget,” Sloan said. “What I didn’t know is the deputy position had never existed, so that was something I had to do.”
Creating the new deputy position does not increase the county attorney’s budget, but Sloan did ask the county council to suspend its policy and increase the position’s starting pay grade from $69,000 to about $80,000.
“Once I got into the hiring process, I narrowed my candidates down and I started talking more seriously with Matt about what he needed, and it was clear that our (grade 18) was not sufficient,” she said. “Even if it wasn’t Matt, it was clear as I got into the process, that the grade 18 pay grade was insufficient to hire anyone.”
As of the Jan. 2 county council meeting, there was no formal offer that had been made to Brooks, Sloan said, so his name was not released during the meeting when the pay grade change was discussed.
“It’s traditional human resources protocol to not release a candidate’s name publicly until an offer has been given and accepted,” she said. “There was no formal offer given because we were waiting for the salary, and there was not acceptance. It would be traditional to not release the name so if Matt declined the offer and went back to his old job, he doesn’t jeopardize his position and also that if Matt declined my offer and I needed to go to candidate number two that it doesn’t compromise that procedure either.”
Sloan emphasized that the budget for the county attorney’s office is not increasing.
“Where we landed — G20, step 4 — is where Zacharia (Levine) is; he has a PhD, he is overseeing numerous employees. That was the most similar position to make a comparison with the deputy position,” Sloan said. “People hear these numbers and they just assume I’m increasing my budget by that amount and I’m not. They didn’t have to amend any budget stuff in that process. Literally just moving that money from the deputy services line item into the salary line item, that’s all I had to do is move money around. It didn’t increase my budget.”
Before joining the San Juan County Attorney’s Office, Brooks said he completed internships in family law and securities fraud.
“I just love this work. I always wanted a job where I didn’t hate my job and I could go to work and like it every day, and I love this so it’s a good fit for me.”
Matt Brooks partners with Sloan in new position overseeing criminal caseload