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Investigation of threats on officials over, Kennard says

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Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard said Tuesday his investigators have completed a three-week probe of alleged threats made against other county officials during the tense budget process last month.

"Once again, I apologize," Kennard told the nine-member County Council during a regular work meeting.

Although Kennard told the County Council to "rest assured" that the behavior wouldn't happen again, afterward he said there was not enough evidence to determine the validity of the allegations. Kennard said his investigators interviewed council members and representatives of the mayor's office to get at the root of the problem.

"We were never able to establish that any threats occurred," Kennard said.

That later enraged council member Michael Jensen, a target of the alleged threats. Jensen, a firefighter, said he was upfront with investigators, confirming the threats but refusing to reveal the identities of the deputies involved.

"I was threatened flat-out. For him to say that is wrong," Jensen said.

"What I don't want to do is get the guys I have to work with in trouble. They've apologized to me and there is a brotherhood in public safety. It did happen, but I don't want to drive any further wedge between the sheriff's office and the department."

Kennard said it was tough to investigate a complaint with an unwilling victim, such as Jensen, and determine who made the threats because no names ever surfaced during the probe.

During a heated budget discussion last month, County Council member Joe Hatch made a public issue of the alleged threats after he heard Jensen had been threatened with physical violence while on the job.

Jensen, a county firefighter, was on a medical call for a heart attack victim when it got back to him that frustrated deputies also called to the scene made remarks they ought to beat him up.

Although he mentioned it to some of his fellow County Council members, Jensen has always maintained he knew the words were spoken in the heat of anger over pending cuts to the sheriff's budget that may ultimately leave some deputies without a job.

In Tuesday's meeting, Jensen took the same stand, trying to downplay the incident and saying he wanted it dropped.

"It's water under the bridge. It was said out of emotion, and eventually calmer heads prevailed. If I was really concerned about my welfare or that of my fellow firefighters, I would go further with this."

Hatch also wanted it made clear that he was never the subject of any threats, but only spoke up in defense of Jensen.

"He's too nice of a guy to say anything when there were inappropriate actions," Hatch said.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com