Last Tuesday night a debate was held between the candidates for County Attorney, Al Lundgren and Jann Farris. The debate was moderated by Brent Bowman.
The candidates began with four-minute opening remarks. Lundgren began by talking a little about his family. Lundgren and his wife are the parents of 16 children and have 40 grandchildren. Lundgren’s family includes two handicapped children, one of which is in the last stages of Down’s syndrome. Lundgren continued, “I have been an attorney for over twenty years. I have practiced a great variety of law in those twenty years.”
He continued by relating his experience in running his own business, running a law firm of fifty lawyers, and practicing law in several states. He also communicated his experience on the Morgan County Board of Variance and Board of Appeals. Lastly he talked about his experience in law enforcement. His overall summary was that, “I am the best qualified person for the job of Morgan County Attorney.”
Farris also introduced his family and talked about his background being raised in a farming community. He said he was raised on a small three-acre piece of ground where he had a milk cow that he and his father milked daily.
Farris graduated from BYU Idaho and began working in Law enforcement. He earned a degree in criminal justice from Weber State. He worked for Salt Lake City police department for seven years as a police officer and a detective, including time as the union president when working for the police force. Farris then decided to go to law school at the University of Idaho. Farris worked in bankruptcy law and ran a small law office of his own. He has been serving as the county attorney for the last four and a half years.
The first question asked what the role of the County Attorney is. Lundgren replied, “The county attorney’s responsibility is, number one… to be the county prosecutor against felonies and misdemeanors that are occurring within the county. The county attorney wears two hats…he also wears a civil hat…That responsibility means he is to give advice to the council when requested… to the county council and each of the department heads inside the county.”
Farris replied, “My morning as county attorney begins with screening cases…anyone who has been booked in the previous evening…I will read those police reports…I’ll make sure we have good charges filed.” Farris also said that his duties include other tasks such as working with Morgan empowered, reviewing contracts for county departments, and attending county council meetings and advising the council.
The second question related to who the Morgan County Attorney represents, the Citizens, or the governing body of the county.
Farris replied that the county attorney is the adviser to the county council, but that the County attorney is the attorney for the county. He commented that he often gets calls from citizens relating to questions they have about law in the county. He said that the office should be there for the best interest of the county as a whole.
Lundgren added that the county attorney represents the citizens as a whole when legal matters arise and to give council to the county council and other elected officials. He also confirmed that the attorney represents the county council and other government bodies in court.
A question was asked about the candidate’s top three priorities. Lundgren said, “Number one, to improve the quality and performance that comes out of the county attorney office. Based upon my experience. Sometimes the county has not received the legal advice that it ought to have received…While I was chairman for the Morgan County Board of Appeals we heard a number of appeals. On each of these appeals we sought recommendation and advice from the County Attorney. We did not get any.” Farris then interrupted by saying, “Absolutely not correct. That’s a damn lie.” Lundgren continued, “Mr. Farris can say what he wants to but I was there. I was chairman of that board and I personally requested opinions of him while he was sitting in the audience and he said he had ‘No comment’ I have heard the same things while sitting on the county council board. My promise to this county is I will be prepared with council and advice to any elected official, any elected board, any appointed board, to answer and respond to their legal questions.”
Lundgren then continued by saying that he would save the county money by reducing the outsourcing of cases. He said that he would handle the justice court directly rather than using an outside attorney. He also asserted that there would have been less need for outside attorneys to provide advice to the council were he the attorney.
Farris said that he runs the county attorney’s office as he did his own lay office on three principles. He said, “…Access, advice and action. Those will be my three priorities during the next term if reelected. Access, my door is always open for anyone who wants to come in, including the chairman of the board of appeals and I take issue with the fact that I have ever said no comment or ever been unwilling to give advice to anyone who has asked that.” Farris encouraged those attending to talk to one of the elected officials and asked whether he is responsive to their needs. He said that he returns all calls before he leaves each day. He said that the efficiency improvements he has made have facilitated him handling a caseload double what it was two years ago.
The debate was remarkably civil, given the two candidates history of sparring. The key areas revolved around who had the better experience and could provide the best overall advice to the county departments and the council, who could provide the best results in the criminal prosecution, and who could run the most cost effective office. To see and hear more of the debate visit MorganNewspaper.com where the full debate will be posted shortly.