Paul Rolly: County auditor, A.G. offices have storied histories
I wrote in Friday's column about Salt Lake County Auditor Gregory P. Hawkins' recent policy of having his auditors don police-style badges when going into various county offices to review their operations.
Some county officials muse that it's an intimidation tactic of sorts, although most take the gesture with good humor.
The badges emerged after Hawkins lost a legal battle when the County Council shifted certain responsibilities from the auditor's office to the mayor's office.
While the county's Republican auditor might be seen by colleagues as a bit eccentric, his actions are mild compared to those of some predecessors.
In fact, the auditor's office has been to the county what the attorney general's office has been to the state: namely, a source of amusement and countless news stories generated by a long cast of colorful characters.
The current investigation by a House committee of Republican Attorney General John Swallow is just the latest chapter in a long narrative that has seen one attorney general have his Utah State Bar license suspended while he was in office, another have his Bar license revoked after he left office, and yet another losing re-election after spending millions defending a Utah law in federal courts that most lawyers warned from the start was unconstitutional.
But that's the attorney general's office. The county auditor's office, in many ways, has an even more checkered history.
Former County Auditor Craig Sorensen went to jail for 10 days and paid fines and restitution for using his county gas card to fuel up his private vehicles. A Republican who touted himself as the "taxpayer watchdog," Sorensen was auditor for 26 years before resigning in the wake of that scandal in 2004.
Decades earlier, in 1978, then-County Auditor Gerald R. Hansen stepped down after he was charged with nine felony counts of official misconduct, including theft and misuse of public funds. As part of a plea deal, the GOP auditor resigned and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of official misconduct.
County officials, it seems, have been a little self-conscious about the auditors, treating the position like the crazy uncle kept hidden upstairs.
The county's Records Management and Archives has a research website that includes a list of all elected officials dating to 1852. The tally is categorized by the public offices, including assessor, clerk, council, mayor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer.
But until The Salt Lake Tribune brought it to the attention of county officials, who have since remedied the oversight, the list had no reference to the auditor post.