Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder inappropriately used an armored SWAT vehicle last fall in a fundraiser that was not included in his campaign financial disclosure forms until last week, his Republican challenger contends.
Jake Petersen, a Unified Police Department (UPD) lieutenant over that agency’s SWAT unit, said it was wrong for the BearCat armored vehicle to be used as part of an Oct. 17, 2013, event at Big Shot Ranch in Grantsville because it was a political fundraiser.
Knowing that, Petersen added, the Democratic sheriff omitted the fundraiser on his original 2013 financial disclosure form. "Sheriff Winder got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is doing everything he can afterward to fix it," he said.
Winder denied any wrongdoing over the presence of the BearCat, a privately owned but UPD-leased vehicle at Big Shot Ranch, which describes itself as a privately held special-weapons test center and corporate firearms country club.
And, he added, the failure to report 21 campaign contributions totaling $7,665 was rectified last week in a financial-disclosure amendment that also included 23 donations worth $6,276 from an Aug. 26, 2013, fundraiser.
Winder campaign director Jackie Biskupski said "human error" was responsible for the contributions being left off the forms submitted to the county clerk’s office.
"It’s unfortunate that errors happen, but that’s what happened," Biskupski said. "There were two documents — one an electronic printout of credit-card receipts, the other a sheet of in-kind donations — from two events that didn’t get uploaded. So we uploaded them."
The two sides agreed that the BearCat is the property of Big Shot Ranch owner Michael Drury, who leases it to the UPD, which Winder oversees. The memorandum of understanding between the owner and UPD allows Drury to use it 12 hours a month for various fundraising and charity events.
But it’s not to be used for political fundraising, Petersen said, because it implies Winder has the support of the UPD. "They used a marked emergency vehicle with Unified Police logos all over it," he added. "They crossed a very clear line when he used it for political fundraising."
The failure to report the event until 11 months later "is not just poor management, it’s negligence," Petersen argued, contending the cumulative $13,941 missing from the original disclosure form is a significant amount in a county-level race.
He has not filed a formal complaint with the county clerk, saying "I haven’t thought about it."
Winder responded that it was irresponsible for his opponent to allege wrongdoing when he knows the BearCat is privately owned and that law-enforcement agencies have similar agreements with other entities for things such as the use of helicopters or use of land for placement of communication antennas.
"Using private resources for a public good is a valuable and economically sound approach," he said. "My opponent had the responsibility to understand the realities of this before he made accusations that impugn the reputation of Mr. Drury and others. This is pure politics and very unfortunate."
Winder acknowledged he was taken aback at the fundraiser when Drury solicited bids for a ride in the armored vehicle, so he persuaded his father-in-law to submit the winning bid so that the BearCat would not be taken out on a public cruise.
"We were very conscious about how this particular piece of equipment is used," Winder said, noting that his in-law later was reimbursed by the campaign.
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