WEST JORDAN — A West Jordan city councilman pleaded not guilty Thursday to leaving the scene of an accident in an ordeal outside a bar last month.
Jeff Haaga's plea comes on the same day a judge denied his request to move his case from West Jordan Justice Court to Sandy.
Haaga, 60, was charged July 23 with failure to remain at the scene of an accident, a class C misdemeanor. Witnesses said the councilman was obviously drunk on July 19 when he left the Sheep Bar & Grill, 1520 W. 9000 South, and got into his vehicle. Witnesses also told police Haaga backed into a parked vehicle and drove away.
South Jordan police, who were put on the case to avoid a conflict of interest, said Haaga appeared drunk when officers located him on the front porch of his home about an hour later.
Body camera footage from the incident shows Haaga telling the officers he is "protected" because he is a city councilman. He can also be heard claiming that others attacked him when they took his keys to prevent him from driving away, according to the video. Haaga can be seen in the clip struggling to make sense and talking slowly.
Despite an officer telling Haaga in the video that he should probably be arrested for DUI, he never was. He was also never charged with the offense.
A City Council motion earlier this month to formally censure Haaga failed to garner the four votes needed to pass, despite receiving support from a majority of councilmembers present.
West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe and Councilman Dirk Burton abstained from voting, and Councilman Chris McConnehey missed the meeting due to a canceled flight.
Haaga didn't attend Wednesday's City Council meeting, making it the third such meeting that he has missed since the incident.
The Alliance for a Better Utah, an organization that says it promotes "balance, transparency and accountability" in government, has called for Haaga's resignation. West Jordan City Councilwoman Sophie Rice issued a statement late last month, saying she was demanding in her capacity "as a citizen" that Haaga resign.
Under state law, elected authorities cannot be forcibly removed from their positions unless they're found to have committed malfeasance or certain specified crimes during their time in office.