After months of turmoil, a top northern Utah election official steps down

Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson resigns less than a month after a state report detailed more than 30 problems with how the county conducted last year’s election.

(Cache County) Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson resigned from his position effective 5 p.m. Monday after less than a year in the job. Benson’s resignation comes roughly a month after the lieutenant governor’s office outlined over 30 issues with Cache County’s handling of its 2023 elections.

Logan • Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson, who’s seen a tumultuous tenure over election-related missteps, has resigned after less than a year on the job.

In a letter obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune, Benson told the County Council and other elected officials that he would resign effective Monday at 5 p.m.

Benson wrote that there are many reasons for bowing out but said the primary one was to attend to “family health matters.”

“I express my genuine thanks to those who have been a support in my sincere efforts,” Benson wrote, “and hope for continued productivity and teamwork among those acting on behalf of the public.”

In a statement Tuesday following Benson’s resignation, Cache County Executive David Zook said serving in elected office is difficult and he called for unity within county leadership.

“Everyone needs support from their team in order to be successful,” Zook said in a statement. “I call upon our public, and especially other elected officials, to diligently strive for unity and cooperation, that we might better serve our citizens.”

In the resignation letter, Benson designated Dianna Schaeffer, a tax administration supervisor in the clerk/auditor’s office, to take over his duties.

Benson did not respond to a request for comment on his resignation.

Schaeffer is one of four candidates running for county auditor this year. The County Council voted last year to split the clerk/auditor’s office into two positions. Benson did not file to run for either post.

Benson’s exit ends a turbulent few months for the county clerk/auditor. In December, less than six months after he began, he placed two election workers on administrative leave amid what state officials called an “elections-related investigation.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cache County offices, home to the county clerk's office, is pictured in Logan on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Benson also recused himself from office at that time. He returned to the post Jan. 8 after county officials assured him he could do so. One of the election employees placed on leave, Robert Edwards, also returned to work in January.

The other, Dustin Hansen, resigned from the clerk’s office last month just before he was charged with a crime. Cache County prosecutors charged Hansen with one count of willful neglect of duty/corrupt conduct by a poll worker, a third-degree felony.

Hansen stands accused of falsifying a legally required “logic and accuracy test” of the county’s election equipment, a test that ensures ballot-counting devices are working properly.

The test was just one of the problems that the lieutenant governor’s office uncovered while investigating the clerk’s office.

Investigators discovered more than 30 issues with how the county conducted last year’s election. They detailed the findings in a report at a County Council meeting last month.

Despite the long list of issues, state election officials say they found no evidence that the missteps affected election results.

At the same council meeting, Benson told county officials his office had already addressed most of the issues outlined in the report. He also expressed thanks to the state for the investigation.

“I genuinely appreciate the significant effort represented by this review,” Benson said, “and assure you of my unwavering commitment to addressing … these issues in a speedy, thorough and conscientious manner.”

When reached Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the lieutenant governor’s office declined to comment on Benson’s resignation.

In recent months, a mix-up in Benson’s office forced six candidates to refile their candidacy papers after they were allowed to file for districts where they do not live.

Benson pointed the finger at the previous clerk/auditor, Jess Bradfield, who Benson claimed failed to update voting maps. Bradfield disputed that allegation, noting he successfully ran elections in November 2022 with the correct voting maps.

Benson was appointed to the job last June by the Cache County Republican Party after Bradfield stepped down that same month.