Last week The Morgan County News reported on a Meet the Candidate night. County Attorney Jann Farris was unable to attend. Many of the questions were directed to Al Lundgren, candidate for Morgan County Attorney. Since much of the discussion centered on the County Attorney position, The Morgan County News asked Farris to respond to the questions posed in the Meet the Candidate night and issues raised in the discussion.
One of the issues raised was about the experience level of the candidates for attorney. Farris said, “I have had specialized experience over the last five years as a county attorney. I am current on the state of the law regarding criminal prosecutions and search and seizure. Additionally, I have become well versed in land use law and water law. I sit on several boards including the Utah Prosecution Council. I believe that five years of actual on the job training is much more valuable than being a divorce lawyer for 20 years.”
There was also some question about whether Farris was committed to stay in Morgan County since he has applied for Judge positions. Farris replied, “I applied for a position as a Juvenile Court Judge in our district. The position would serve all three counties. Mr. Lundgren’s statement shows ignorance about the court system. Additionally, I was privileged to have had my name sent to the Governor for consideration on being appointed as a juvenile court judge. Only five out of about forty applicants were sent to his office for consideration. Applicants are rated by the judges that they appear in front of and from other attorneys including opposing attorneys. Making that list is a big deal and only those who meet strict ethical standards and show a high level of integrity are ever on that list. I was humbled to be included with that group.”
Lastly, there was a discussion about legal situations that the County Attorney’s office had addressed. Farris replied, “[With regards to] Round Valley Development. That contract was not drafted by my office. The council’s administrator and some former staff in the community development office created that document and they are the ones who negotiated that deal. Each county council member had a copy of that document in front of them and they voted to sign it.
I sent the letter to the developer that helped motivate them to pay the county the funds that were owed in order to avoid getting sued. They paid just after receiving that letter.
Regarding the employee contract that ‘did not have a clause in that contract that if the employee was guilty of malfeasance he loses all of his benefits.’ And, further that we may have to pay out two years termination pay… Section 4 of that contract states; “except in the case of removal for proven malfeasance in the office, the Governing Body shall cause the Council Administrator, upon his removal, to be paid any unpaid balance of his salary …” As a side note, this contract was not created by my office. The former council chairman Bruce Sanders and Garth negotiated this contract. It was sent to my office just prior to the hiring and I reviewed it for legality and approved it as to form. I was not asked my opinion of whether it was a good contract. I had already been on record advising the county council that it was a bad idea to create such a position in the first place. The contract speaks for itself. There is a clause about malfeasance and no mention of two years of termination pay.”
He continued, “[Relating to the issue of the] Wilkinson Water Contract. This was debated in a county council meeting. Mr. Lundgren had a hyper critical reading of a portion of the contract that allowed the water company to pursue civil and criminal remedies for any theft of their water. Mr. Lundgren made the argument that allowing them to pursue criminal charges was allowing them to become prosecuting attorneys and to file their own criminal charges in court. Since you need to be deputized to appear on behalf of the State of Utah to be a prosecutor, Mr. Lundgren’s absurd argument again shows his lack of understanding of the court process. Any person may “pursue” criminal charges anytime they want to. They call the police and make a report and then follow up with a prosecutor to see if the charges warrant prosecution. You can always pursue criminal charges but you may not get criminal charges. The county council sided with me on this issue and voted to sign the agreement so as to get much needed water to the airport hangars.
After my four plus years as the Morgan County Attorney, if these are the best “really scary legal situations” that my opponent could find, then all in all the state of the County Attorney’s Office is in pretty good shape and I see nothing in Mr. Lundgren’s track record that would show that he could have done any better.”