A Meet the Candidate meeting was held on Wednesday, September 15. Attending the meeting was; Candidates for Sheriff - Blaine Breshears and Neil Porter, Candidate for Morgan County Attorney - Al Lundgren, and Candidate for County Council at Large Seat A, Larry Hatch. Many issues were discussed but the majority of the questions were directed to Lundgren, Breshears, and Porter.
Before the questions began, each candidate took a few minutes. Hatch introduced himself by saying, “I am running on a real simple platform, a one plank platform…my objective is to improve the way we do government in Morgan County.”
Lundgren, while introducing himself, indicated that he has been a resident of the county for about thirteen years. Lundgren said, “I saw the need for running for county attorney because of some issues in the county attorney’s office. I would be happy to answer your questions, but I believe I bring to the table more experience and more competence than we currently enjoy. And also I intend to make this my home forever… I can say that the incumbent probably does not have this goal because he frequently applies for judgeships and there are not judgeships in Morgan County.”
When Neil Porter introduced himself, he said that he was born and raised here in Morgan and talked about his experience in law enforcement. He said, “I have been in law enforcement… in January it will be 38 years. I started out in city police work. I spent approximately three years there. I spent thirty years with the Utah Highway Patrol. At the time of my retirement there, I was Assistant Superintendant. I am currently with the Davis County Sheriffs Department. I have been there for just a little over five years…I think I want the same thing that everyone else wants for the community. I want it to be a safe place for our families to live and grow. I want it to be someplace that is free of drugs and [where]our Sheriff’s Department is close and comfortable with the residents.”
Breshears indicated that he had attended the schools in Morgan and is a graduate of Morgan High. He reviewed his experience as well, saying, “I have worked for Morgan County for 14 years. I have had different assignments. I have been a corporal and a sergeant. My current position is the School Resource Officer and DARE instructor, which I absolutely love. I love working with the kids. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done…I guess my platform would be community policing. I have been in Morgan County enough, that’s where I chose to keep my job… here. I had opportunities to go other places, and I chose to stay in Morgan County because I love this community, and I want to make this community the best I possibly can.”
After introductions, the first question was given to Al Lundgren. Lundgren was asked if he had experience in land usage law. Lundgren confirmed that he had experience in this area, and added that over the years, his practice has given him a wide variety of experience in different fields of law. He confirmed that this included his time with the FBI in law enforcement and said that it helped him to see the law from all sides.
Lundgren was then asked about his view on the current state of the county attorney’s office. Along with this, he was asked if he would oppose the council in areas where he felt they were not acting appropriately. Lundgren replied, “My fellow council members will attest to that. The council is made up of a group of wonderful people. I am very fond of every one of them. I think they are all good. Some of us are more aggressive than others and I am one of the aggressive ones, and I take the lead and am not hesitant to argue a point if I think a point needs to be argued. If I am fortunate enough to be elected county attorney I will be very aggressive in advising the council as to the legal ramifications of the issues that the county faces.”
Lundgren was then asked about his main focus and what he would like to see changed. He replied, “I am going to try to be delicate here, because I don’t want this to be a bash the incumbent situation…The incumbent is a great guy and personally I like him a great deal. He does not have a great deal of legal experience. I think I bring to the table a great deal of legal experience. I have been licensed to practice law in four different states. I have appeared before many federal courts and government agencies of various kinds. I have been involved in almost every aspect of law that you can think of one way or another. I have owned my own business. I have raised a big family and I understand how the law works, not only with businesses and with developers, but in family environments and I think I can bring to the county attorney’s not only that experience, but the ability to balance the needs of justice as well as local families. In terms of experience I have more than he does…We have had some really scary legal situations arise in the county over the last few years.”
As an example, Lundgren related that in the Round Valley Development contract, the guarantee that was included from the developer was guaranteed by the same developer, rather than guaranteed with a bond with the county or a guarantee from a bank. Lundgren asserted that this meant that the county would have had no recourse if the developer had defaulted.
“We literally escaped that with the skin of our teeth,” Lundgren said. He then continued, “We have had some employment issues with the county…It [the employment contract with the employee] was not atypical in terms of the benefits it provided the employee, but it did not have a clause in that contract that if the employee was guilty of malfeasance he loses all of his benefits. That contract included up to two years termination pay, and frankly that issues is not yet resolved. Not knowing what the future may be, it is possible, I don’t know that it is likely, but it certainly is possible based upon a reading of his contract, that we would have to pay out benefits for two solid years, and we just don’t have that kind of money laying around the county.”
Lundgren also commented that in the Wilkinson Cottonwood Water contract that, in his opinion, the water company was granted the right to criminally prosecute individuals. He believes that this is a right reserved to the county and that this authority could not be delegated in a contract to a private entity. He does not believe that the county can delegate this, but none-the-less felt that the language was inappropriate.
Lundgren believes that these problems are a result of lack of experience by the current county attorney and that Lundren’s experience would be a great asset to the county.
The question was then asked of the Sheriff’s candidates about the Sharp Survey. The Sharp Survey is a survey conducted by schools of drug use by students. It has been controversial and has caused a number of parents groups around the country to protest the use of the survey.
The parents have stated that the survey can introduce the students to ideas that they would never have conceived on their own and can create curiosity in students about drug use. One of the most controversial questions asked was when the last time a student used marijuana. This question, in the past, did not have an answer of “never.” It has since been changed.
Both Breshears and Porter expressed support of the survey. They both communicated that the survey provides data that is helpful to the schools and law enforcement. They also both expressed support of the requirement for parental permission as a part of taking the survey and that parents should have the right to opt their children out of the survey.
Questions were also raised about how the Sheriff’s candidates would deal with drug use by students, “Do you just prosecute them and put them in jail or do you try to rehab them?”
Breshears reported that currently it is a zero tolerance policy. If a student is found using drugs there is an automatic referral to juvenile court. Breshears also said that while the Sheriff’s office does not have rehabilitation options that the juvenile court does.
Both candidates affirmed their support of a zero tolerance policy for drugs. They believe this is the best approach to help the youth. They also both said that getting the parents involved is often key to solving problems.
The citizens attending expressed concern that there has been a problem in the past with prosecuting individuals who are friends and neighbors of the Sherriff and County Attorney. Both candidates said that they would prosecute whoever broke the law.
Breshears stated, “My wife’s family is a prominent family here and that is one question I was asked when I was hired in Morgan county is ‘How would you deal with them?’ and unfortunately I have had to deal with them and they understand that I am not picking on them and they understand that they are not going to get a free ride.”
Both Sherriff candidates also expressed support for more community policing. They would each like to see the officers more visible in the community and have county residents more comfortable with the officers.
There was a discussion about budget in the Sheriff office and whether there is a sufficient budget. Porter responded that there needs to be a balanced approach between what the county can afford and what is ideal for the county for law enforcement.
Breshears commented that, “In 1997 we had eleven officers… we have eleven now…Our calls have more than tripled since 1997.” Both candidates support an approach of having the officers more present in the community to make the best use of the limited resources. Porter also added that visibility of the officers is key to preventing crime and that officers that are visible in the community will be a deterrent to criminals coming into Morgan County.
Porter was asked about his experience in investigating domestic violence cases and other types of investigative cases, given his long service with the Highway Patrol. He responded, “That is a good question. My career started out on a city police force. I spent the beginning of my career with two police departments. Pleasant Grove City Police Department, and from there I went to the Orem City Police Department. So, I have had a great deal of experience in that. I work for the Davis County Sheriff’s department now. My responsibility lies with the district courts, but a lot of what we deal with is directly related to what you are referring to.”
Breshears responded that this is what the Sheriff’s office does here and has been a part of his responsibility over his time with the Morgan Sheriff’s Department. Both candidates also commented that they would be visible in the community and would both be out working in the field on a regular basis.
The candidates will be continuing to have local meetings. Contact the candidates to ask questions or find out where meet the candidates events will be held. Also watch The Morgan County News for information on these events.