Southern Utah News Articles
Just in - Response from county officials
Dear Kane County Residents:
The last year has been a difficult one for Kane County government. It began with the discovery of significant theft by the county treasurer. A long drawn-out criminal investigation eventually led to criminal charges that are still pending and we look forward to a just resolution of that case. Many of us were shocked and felt that our trust had been personally violated by the actions of another elected official. We now have a new treasurer, a new position of county budget officer, and we continue to create new processes and safeguards to help prevent this from happening again.
Now we are facing additional scrutiny for actions taken by a few of our local or special service districts. Some of these actions are simple mistakes, but others are unethical and possibly illegal actions, and still worse, there are allegations of criminal misconduct. Although these discoveries only involve a few number of individuals who were acting without our knowledge, we accept that the public may have lost some faith and trust in Kane County elected officials collectively. We are writing this letter in an attempt to address some of the concerns that you may have and to help begin to restore any trust that we have lost.
We refuse to accept or condone any illegal, unethical, or criminal behavior by any volunteer, employee or elected official in Kane County. Many of the actions taken by the districts in question have been unintentional mistakes, which can and should be corrected easily. Other issues have not been as simple. The State Auditor’s findings include excessive payments for financial services and increased board payments to $5,000 annually, which is the maximum amount allowed by state law. To the extent County Clerk Karla Johnson and County Commissioner Jim Matson participated and/or directed these actions, we want to be on the record condemning this behavior. This is not how we expect elected officials to treat public funds. Additionally, the State Auditor recommended a criminal investigation specifically for some of Commissioner Matson’s actions. We do not assume that a criminal law has been broken, but we fully support the county attorney in requesting a complete and independent criminal investigation by Washington County. If criminal activity is discovered, we will support prosecution of those actions.
We also want to thank so many board members and staff of the 12 districts throughout the county. We greatly value the public service they provide. For the most part, these men and women put in countless hours for next to no compensation to ensure that we all can have the necessary services that they provide. They are the kind of individuals that are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done and we are proud to work along side them. Districts like the Hospital Board that works to provide quality medical care and emergency services, the Western Kane County SSD that takes care of your trash every week, and the many other Fire and Utility Districts that provide regular services to our citizens; we can’t thank the 12 separate districts enough for their service to our great community. As we move forward and fix some of the issues that have been pointed out by the State Auditor, we hope to continue to collaborate with these district boards in a relationship of trust and good will.
We greatly appreciate the work that has been done by the State Auditor to complete the three most recent audit reports. Over the last year, many of us have been working together with the State Auditor to help uncover issues both big and small and to work on how to solve them. In general, we agree with the findings and recommendations made by the State Auditor. As you can see by the county’s response to the audit, prepared mostly by Commissioner Dirk Clayson, we have already begun to correct many of the issues.
For example, the county commission passed an ordinance that requires all district board members to receive annual training regarding their board duties, financial reporting, budgeting, anti-nepotism, and open public meetings. Earlier this year, a major training was conducted and almost all board members attended to get updated on their training. The legislation has also required the districts to establish their own procurement policy or to comply with the county procurement policy to ensure that contracts are fair and an effective use of taxpayer dollars. Oversight and tracking responsibilities over the districts has been assigned to the county budget officer to help ensure that the districts are staying in compliance with the large amount of complicated laws that they have to follow. He will also be gathering financial information from the districts, particularly board member compensation, to help make this information more available to the public, which will further help protect tax dollars.
Again, the districts are governed by good men and women that work hard and do a great job. We hope to be an asset to them when they have concerns or questions about compliance.
As county elected officials, we consider it a privilege to serve you, the people of Kane County. Kane County is still a great place to live and provide service to each other. We have great Kane County employees who are committed to carrying out their duties every day. We understand the great responsibility it is to hold the positions of public service that you have entrusted with us. We promise to uphold a high standard of legal and ethical conduct. We apologize for the actions of our colleagues and ask that you trust us as we move forward.
Linda Little, County Assessor
Robert Van Dyke, County Attorney
Dirk Clayson, County Commissioner
Lamont Smith, County Commissioner
Ver Jean Caruso, County Recorder
Tracy Glover, County Sheriff
Kevin Blomquist, County Treasurer