The number one story for Morgan County in 2010 was Garth Day. It seemed that the council administrator position brought controversy with him from the beginning. First, the position of council administrator, and then the person filling the position became controversial.
When the council made the decision to create the position of council administrator there were a number of clashes between the county attorney and the council over whether the council could hire this position or whether there needed to be a vote from citizens of the county to change the form of government. In the end the council determined to hire a strictly administrative position that had no policy authority. The council retained the legislative and executive powers set up in the charter of the county, and hired the position as a council administrator.
The council administrator had responsibility for all the county employees that were not a part of the offices of elected officials. The position was funded from the economic development budget and the decision to hire Day was based largely on his past results in helping other counties bring in businesses to the counties where he had been employed. Day had a strong background in economic development.
The controversy in the county mounted as decisions were made to replace some long time staff in the county office. A number of positions were also filled with individuals from outside the county as the council sought to find the best qualified individuals to solve some of the problems the county had been facing from substantial growth.
Day continued to consult with other city and county governments while employed by the county. While this was anticipated and specifically permitted under Day’s employment agreement, it raised concerns from a number of citizens.
The situation turned serious in about May of 2010. Bonnie Thomson, the county treasurer, became concerned about an account that had been opened separate from other county accounts to hold money in escrow for a building project in conjunction with the State of Utah. Thomson expressed concerns to the Sheriff who opened an investigation and communicated to Chairman Creager that she thought that the account should be under the treasurer’s control. The account was moved back under the control of the treasurer in July. Concerns were also raised over a vehicle transaction in which one of Day’s family members may have benefited.
In early August Day made the decision to resign. He gave his ninety-day notice and set his final date of employment as November 1.
In a council meeting on August 18 sparks flew between Chariman Creager and Treasurer Thompson. The county auditor had just reviewed the transactions in question from Day and given the county a clean bill of health. Creager felt that he had not been apprised of the investigation from the Sheriff’s office in a timely fashion and felt that with the auditors findings that there should be closure on the issue.
By the next council meeting the situation had changed entirely. Creager had received a call from Day indicating that he had done some inappropriate things and that the council should either place him on unpaid administrative leave, or fire him outright. Day was placed on unpaid leave and later fired. Shortly thereafter Creager received calls from financial institutions indicating that Day had opened lines of credit on behalf of the county which he had then allegedly used for his personal benefit. These accounts were allegedly opened with forged documents including forged resolutions from the county council.
Day was later charged with multiple counts of forgery and fraud. The current estimates allege that Day embezzled more than $450,000 during his time as council administrator.
The most recent development occurred about ten days ago at Day’s preliminary hearing. County attorney Jann Farris informed the judge that the F.B.I. had been investigating alongside the county and asked to take over the prosecution of Day. Farris expressed that he believed that Day would serve a longer prison sentence with a federal conviction that a state conviction and so agreed to the federal charges. Farris will act as second chair in the federal prosecution.
It is expected that charges will shortly be filed at the federal level and that charges will then be dropped by the county. It has also been reported that Day is cooperating fully with the investigation and has provided substantial information to the investigating authorities.
The decision on whether to hire another council administrator was deferred by the current council to the incoming council. Over the next few weeks the new council will have to determine whether to hire this position, and whether they want to reconsider the Morgan County form of government as they make the decision on whether to hire.