The circus continues.
Brent Morris wants his commission job back and is threatening to sue the county if that's what it takes. County Commissioner Malcolm Beck is livid and threatening to resign. County officials are in a turmoil, and the local GOP is in a quandary.It's politics as usual in Utah County.
Morris, whose bid for Congress ended abruptly Saturday with his last-place finish at the state Republican convention, resigned his commission post effective May 31 to devote himself full time to his campaign. But on Monday, in letters to County Clerk-Auditor Bruce Peacock and county GOP Chairman Wayne Watson, he announced that he is withdrawing his resignation and plans to resume his office.
Morris has been absent from commission meetings since May 31, but he showed up Monday and took his old seat - much to Beck's dismay.
"I'm not going to tolerate it. If they (Morris and Commissioner Sid Sandberg) want to participate in these meetings, I'll quit," Beck said. "That's the most dishonest thing of any elected official I've ever worked with. If that's the way we're going to run politics, I'm leaving, I'm quitting. I've had it."
Beck refused to participate in commission business with Morris present, and Monday's meeting was adjourned.
"If you two commissioners intend to sit here this morning and vote on these issues . . . you will not have me here to conduct this meeting," he told Morris and Sandberg.
"I am more inclined to believe that this is preplanned rather than that it just came up, and I am not going to tolerate it. If that's the way we run elected-official business in this state and this county, then I have no intention of being an elected official."
Peacock said his office considers Morris' former seat vacant until commissioners or the governor approves one of several names to be submitted by the county Republican central committee following its meeting Tuesday night.
Beck took the matter to the state attorney general's office Monday for an opinion; a ruling is expected later this week.
Once the attorney general's office renders an opinion, County Attorney Steve Killpack said, his office will decide how to proceed.
"Our preliminary review of the law indicates that there is no clear answer regarding when a resignation takes effect in Utah," he said. Killpack said the county likely will respect the ruling of the attorney general's office.
If it rules against Morris regaining his seat, Morris said, he will take the issue to court.
"We've got to keep functioning. We can't wait for a court decision," Peacock told the Deseret News. "All your readers are going to think we've got Barnum and Bailey down here. How can you withdraw it (the resignation) three weeks after the fact? Once it's in writing, you've got to go with it."
County GOP Vice Chairwoman Sue Arseneau agrees.
"As far as we're concerned, he has resigned and the seat is vacant," she said. "We, as a party, feel that everything was done properly and that he has resigned. We have planned a central committee meeting and are going forward with it. I don't know how you can resign and then un-resign."
Morris, however, said the party should consider his past service before proceeding with naming possible replacements.
"I think it is my right to pursue this and that they should honor it and say, `Let him have his seat back,' " he said.
"We'll have to wait and see what the legal opinion is," said Morris, who is confident a ruling will be made in his favor. "I don't want to cause any problems, I just want to finish my 2 1/2 years like I was elected to do. I should be rewarded for my past efforts."
Regardless of the outcome, "It's a mess," said Jeril Wilson, deputy county attorney. "And it'll create a lot of turmoil that will go on for a long time. That's unfortunate for everyone involved."