S.L. County Council member fumbles campaign kickoff

Republican Dea Theodore’s aide sent a news release from her official county email.

Salt Lake County Council member Dea Theodore wants you to know she’s running for another term.

One problem: Her office’s announcement of that political bid may have broken the law.

In a message sent from a county email address just before 3 p.m. Thursday with a subject line that begins with “NEWS RELEASE,” Theodore’s senior policy adviser wrote that the first-term Republican council member had officially filed for reelection.

“I look forward to this exciting campaign,” Theodore said in the release, “and accomplishing our critical objectives this year!”

Salt Lake County employees are barred by state law and county ordinance from engaging in political activity during work hours. According to the county’s human resources policy, those who violate state law or county ordinance may be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“Employees may also forfeit their office or position,” the policy states, “and be ineligible for county employment for five years.”

County ordinance further prohibits the use of county resources for political activity.

“No employee shall use any property or resources of Salt Lake County, including time, other county employees, equipment, material, county seal, buildings or facilities in connection with any political activity,” the ordinance states, “except in accordance with established county policy regarding scheduling and use of public meeting rooms.”

State law, meanwhile, explicitly bans the use of a public email address for a political purpose, adding that a first violation of the law could carry a fine of up to $250 from the lieutenant governor’s office.

The law contains a laundry list of exceptions, including if the lieutenant governor finds that the email was sent from a public email inadvertently.

In a text message, Theodore said her policy adviser works for her on a part-time basis and was volunteering for the campaign on her own time when she put together the news release.

“She accidentally sent this using her county email address,” Theodore said. “It was addressed immediately, and it will not happen again.”

Just before 5 p.m. Thursday, after The Salt Lake Tribune asked Theodore for comment, the adviser recalled the email announcing the reelection bid.

Theodore was elected to her District 6 seat in 2020 and serves a vast chunk of the county stretching from parts of West Jordan and Midvale, east to Cottonwood Heights and south to Draper.

In her reelection announcement, Theodore said she has kept her campaign promises to voters.

“I voted NO on tax increases,” she’s quoted saying, “NO on expensive, wasteful duplicate services, and No mask mandates.”

She also promoted the creation of an initiative called “It’s Your County!” — which she describes as “special advisory boards” that will “review, investigate and develop policy proposals” focused on wildfire danger and forest health, culinary and emergency water access, public and private access to the backcountry, and “banning biological males from changing and showering with our daughters in county facilities.”

Theodore sponsored a measure last month that would have restricted transgender patrons’ use of locker rooms in county recreation centers but ultimately voted to shelve the measure. She said at the time that she would keep working to refine the ordinance.

A spokesperson for County Mayor Jenny Wilson, a Democrat, said late Thursday that “It’s Your County” advisory boards only advise Theodore and are not in any way connected to official county business.

Sandy City Council member Zach Robinson, a Democrat, has filed to run against Theodore. The filing deadline ends Monday.

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