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Overson quits his policy analyst post

Replacement is controversial person: W. Jordan's Curtis

A controversial shadow of the old form of Salt Lake County government is on its way out with Monday's announcement of Brent Overson's departure.

Another controversial figure was named to replace him — former West Jordan City Attorney Greg Curtis, who left that city under a cloud of allegations accompanied by an exhaustive investigation by the District Attorney's Office.

Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman said it was Overson's decision to leave his job as a policy analyst.

"He's had other offers all along," she said. "He came to me last week and virtually quit."

Workman, who assumed office Jan. 1, was roundly criticized when she said she would hire Overson, a former Salt Lake County commissioner whose end of term was especially tumultuous.

The past nine weeks have seen Overson continuing to square off with Salt Lake District Attorney Dave Yocom and constantly explaining to the new County Council the old commission's reasoning behind decisions, many of them called bad by the new council.

Despite the atmosphere of contention that often accompanies Overson, Workman reiterated Tuesday his departure was not something she wanted to see happen.

"I felt lucky to have kept him as long as I did," she said, adding that if there were any sentiment pushing her to get rid of him, she would have resisted.

"I'm kind of stubborn. I tend to go back the other way if I am pushed. If anything, it would have made me stay the course."

Workman denied Overson had been fired and Overson didn't return phone calls Tuesday morning.

Some members of the Salt Lake County Council said Overson's departure is one of the best things that could happen in the mayor's office.

"I'm not surprised by this," said council member Joe Hatch. "It became very apparent quickly that it was good politics to beat up on Brent Overson. You could point to him any time there was mistake. Once it becomes very good politics to beat up on someone in the mayor's office, it's time to go. I think Brent was smart enough to realize that."

The hint that Overson did not leave of his own accord and was surprised at being asked to leave, offended Hatch.

"As much as I politically disagree with Overson, he did not deserve to be treated in this fashion," Hatch said. "If it was done very quickly, that's good politics. I think it was done very sloppily and that's very inhumane."

As curious as Overson's abrupt departure from county government is Workman's pick for his replacement.

Curtis, a state legislator, was asked to leave his job as city attorney for West Jordan after that city's helter-skelter financial dealings merited an intense probe by Yocom.

Yocom's office investigated for six months the city's practices of failing to bid multimillion-dollar projects and unauthorized use of city employees on private projects.

The office, which looked at allegations of failing to obtain bids and violation of the state's procurement code, had investigators questioning at length Curtis, the former city manager and former finance director.

Workman, who brought Curtis on as a legal adviser, says she believes what happened to Curtis in West Jordan was unfair and she's confident he'll be an asset.

"He's a good guy, he's extremely knowledgeable. That experience in West Jordan, with the council and the mayor, will help a lot. That experience Greg had will help him to be extremely valuable to me."

Workman's decision to pick Curtis startled Yocom on two fronts — the West Jordan experience as well as her intention to use him as legal counsel.

"I'm more than little shocked. It's obviously our job to provide the mayor with counsel. I don't know why she would feel she needs this."

Workman said Curtis' job doesn't replace the function of the district attorney's office.

"Clear back when I was running for office I was visiting with Gov. Mike Leavitt. He has legal counsel, even though he has the Attorney's General's Office. There are people within his office that he looks to for legal guidance immediately. Every day all day long there are issues I would like a lot of input on."


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com