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West Jordan City Councilwoman Sophie Rice resigns

FILE - West Jordan Councilwoman Sophie Rice is interviewed at her home in West Jordan, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015.
FILE - West Jordan Councilwoman Sophie Rice is interviewed at her home in West Jordan, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015.
Chris Samuels, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — Sophie Rice has announced she will be resigning from her District 4 seat on the West Jordan City Council.

Rice said in a City Council meeting last week that she and her husband had bought a home outside of the city, and her last day on the council will be Nov. 15.

"My family has the opportunity to live another dream, and we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity," Rice said in a statement Wednesday.

The councilwoman said she has made "lifelong friends" in West Jordan and will miss living and working in the city.

"It's a nice opportunity for her and her family," city spokeswoman Kim Wells said. "Sophie's been a valuable addition to the City Council, and we wish her well. She'll leave a void, but we're confident that someone in the community will step up to take her place."

Rice was first appointed to fill former Councilman Justin Stoker's seat in April 2015. She then ran for election last year, winning a term that would have run until 2020.

By law, the City Council and Mayor Kim Rolfe have 30 days from Nov. 15 to appoint someone to take Rice's place. The appointee will serve until the end of 2017, when he or she will have to run for election to fill the remaining two years of the term.

In the city's November newsletter, Rolfe said he's "looking forward to welcoming a new council member to join us as we work together to move our city forward."

In the statement, Rolfe discussed the importance of City Council members working well together, adding that it can be "frustrating" when council members don't get along.

"It is OK to disagree — in fact, that's expected — but the council needs to work together to provide policy and direction upon which all city actions, programs and priorities are based," the mayor said.

Over the past several years, West Jordan government had gained a reputation for infighting and accusations.

Last year, a power struggle emerged between the City Council and the mayor after former Councilman Ben Southworth suggested reducing the mayor's job to part time and slashing his salary to $10,00 per year. Rolfe then attempted to file for a restraining order to prevent the council from making changes to his authority.

Drama reared its head again last fall when personal emails belonging to Rice containing allegations of sexual discrimination from the mayor were released to roughly 500 city employees, even though she never meant for the allegations to go public.

Now-embattled Councilman Jeff Haaga — who is currently embroiled in controversy over an alleged drunken encounter with police — circulated the email seemingly by accident, but Rice alleged he did it on purpose as retaliation for submitting the complaint to the police chief.

Haaga never responded to the Deseret News regarding those allegations, but Rolfe denied Rice's discrimination claims.

Rice said her resignation has nothing to do with the sexual discrimination accusations. The only reason for stepping down, she said, is her family doesn't want to pass up the opportunity to buy a new home. She declined to say where they'll be moving.

Wells said the city is accepting applications from West Jordan residents interested in filling Rice's position.

So far, two people have submitted letters of interests, Wells said, including Rice's 2015 challenger, Alan Anderson, who lost to Rice by 3 percent of the vote.

To be considered for the position, an applicant must live in District 4 — the area between 7800 South and Old Bingham Highway from Bangerter Highway to west of state Route 111 — for at least a year, be at least 18 years old and a registered voter.

Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. On Nov. 16, the City Council is scheduled to interview applicants and likely appoint the new council member.


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