Well they’re at it again.
After a respite of several years, Salt Lake County Republicans appear ready to go for each other’s throats – this time an attempt to remove from office the current county chairman, former GOP House member Chad Bennion.
Well, maybe they are.
For it is still unclear exactly who is behind a “proposed resolution” sent to UtahPolicy and other news outlets Wednesday morning from “Concerned Republicans,” which may or may not be introduced at the next Salt Lake County GOP Central Committee.
Bennion, who was at times a controversial figure in the Utah House, last week severely criticized Democratic Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill for his investigation, and criticism, of two West Valley City police officers in the shooting death of a young woman nearly a year ago.
Gill said the shooting death was unwarranted and his office will now look into whether charges should be filed against the two officers, who have been in paid leave since the incident.
Bennion, who is the administrative law representative of the Utah chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, called Gill a “cop hater.” (Bennion’s job at the FOP is here.)
Among other things, the FOP offers legal coverage for police officer’s work when they are not officially on duty, as well as when they are on duty. And Bennion represents some officers in administrative hearings before various cities and counties over their actions.
Last March, the FOP issued a new release asking Gill not to be involved in the woman’s shooting by WVC police because Gill was also looking into the West Valley City police scandal concerning its narcotic enforcement squad – and FOP considered that a conflict. Read about the latest issues here.
The killing of the young woman has been controversial, with her relatives and supporters saying the WVC cops acted inappropriately.
WVC police have been under fire for some time, with upwards of 200 drug cases being dropped by Gill and other county prosecutors because of what prosecutors/investigators say were inappropriate police actions. The WVC police chief retired, the mayor didn’t seek re-election, and the police force is being re-evaluated and reorganized.
UtahPolicy was emailed an anonymous proposed resolution Wednesday morning by a group calling themselves “Concerned Republicans,” which lays out reasons for Bennion’s removal at the next Salt Lake County Republican Party Central Committee meeting September 19. Attempts by UtahPolicy to contact “Concerned Republicans” via return email failed. You can read the proposed resolution below.
Bennion was quoted in a Salt Lake Tribune story over his concern about Gill’s actions – in which Bennion said Gill was a “cop hater.”
Bennion told UtahPolicy Wednesday that he was answering a reporter’s question about why Gill may be pursuing the two West Valley cops.
“I said maybe he hates cops” – and that is a fair conclusion considering some of Gill’s actions, said Bennion. Bennion added that it was not he who ever brought up race – Gill is from India.
“I still believe that through his pattern of behavior, he may not like peace officers – and those are from his own quotes, his personal experiences and what appear to be a bias that is tainting his actions: He’s weak on crime and won’t prosecute criminals,” said Bennion. Gill is up for re-election next year.
Gill refutes that charge, saying that in the years he was Salt Lake City attorney and in the county prosecutor’s office he’s been involved in 40 or 50 police shooting investigations, and in only two – the WVC killing included – he’s always clear police officers of any wrongdoing.
Gill says he’s just following the evidence, his conscience and the facts.
But Gill was criticized for calling a press conference over the woman’s killing and show diagrams detailing what he calls were untruthful statements by the two West Valley cops.
In any case, now a group of county Republicans (perhaps) wants Bennion out for his “cop hater” comments, which they say is an embarrassment to county Republicans. They also claim his work with the FOP is a conflict and Bennion shouldn’t be criticizing Gill at all.
Ironically, the executive director of the FOP is Kelly Atkinson, a former Democratic minority leader in the Utah House, and a lobbyist now.
Wheels within wheels, politics within politics.
Bennion says the only way a resolution can be introduced before the Central Committee is to have someone within the committee, by name and precinct, presenting the resolution.
“There is no name” to the resolution, “nothing,” said Bennion.
“Anyone can put up anything through email or on the Internet,” said Bennion.
There is no need for him to be concerned, because so far “there is nothing that can be acted on” before the Central Committee, he added.
“In fact, the wording in the resolution” – he saw a copy of the email Wednesday morning “sounds like it's coming from across the aisle” – in other words, from Democrats.
“You know me, I’m always ready and willing to talk issues with anyone. And I’m willing to discuss this” if someone will stand up and identify themselves, Bennion said.
Bennion said he anticipates the Sept. 19 Central Committee meeting will be taken up with more important business: Long-time Salt Lake County Assessor Lee Gardner is expected to retire, and the county GOP has 30 days to send up a name to the County Council for a replacement.
“There are five candidates now interested in the job,” but there could be twice that number before the CC takes its vote, said Bennion.
In any case, the Salt Lake County GOP has a long history of feeding upon itself.
A decade ago several well-known Republicans officially backed a Democrat for a top Salt Lake County elected office. Those Republicans also held minor party posts within the county GOP, and an attempt was made to strip them of those posts – thus creating a kind of “loyalty” obligation to county Republican politics.
There have been attempts before to remove county GOP officers, fights over automatic delegates to county and state candidate nominating conventions and any number of battles over resolutions and changes to county GOP bylaws.
If a qualifying name is placed next to the “Concerned Republicans” resolution, Bennion likely will have to justify to his Central Committee why he should stay as county chairman.