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Controversial Kaysville councilman focus of extortion investigation

Issue illustrates rift between Davis County sheriff, county attorney

KAYSVILLE — A Kaysville councilman who is no stranger to controversy is now being investigated for theft by extortion.

Kaysville City Councilman Dave Adams — who state auditors last year concluded inappropriately used nearly $6,000 of city funds to repair his personal firetruck, which he paid back — is under investigation for possible extortion involving a Layton sod farmer and alleged demands for $250,000, according to a recently unsealed search warrant affidavit filed in 2nd District Court.

The search warrant for Adams' cellphone records was executed Dec. 15 by Craig Webb, an investigator with the Davis County Attorney's Office.

The issue, however, illustrates a rift between Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, who exchanged jabs at each other when the Deseret News asked them about the case.

Richardson questioned the "validity" of any accusations against Adams, saying Rawlings "has kind of a broad imagination." Rawlings — who declined to comment specifically about the extortion investigation — said, "It is too bad the sheriff chooses to distance himself" from the county attorney's office team.

The investigation into Adams started after the councilman in December 2016 accused Daren Deru, owner of Bull Dog Sod in Layton, of taking a trailer dolly from him, according to the warrant.

Deru said he told Adams "there must be some confusion over the ownership (of the trailer) and they could work it out," Webb wrote in the affidavit. Yet Adams said, "The dolly has no significance to me, I have sold my company. I know that you have probably heard about my debacle with the issue I had with Kaysville City and the firetruck. The issue for me is because we weren't able to use this dolly. … I wasn't able to fix my firetruck."

Deru told the investigator he didn't understand the correlation between the dolly and the firetruck, but Adams told him that because Deru had possession of the trailer, he was “forced to use” Kaysville funds to fix his firetruck for the annual city parade last year, and he was “damaged” as a result, the warrant says.

Deru said Adams told him to give him "a quarter of a million dollars and I need it by midnight,” the affidavit states. Deru said he told Adams, "That is not going to happen” and said he could “no longer reason with Dave and hung up on him."

Farmington police investigated Adams’ theft claims, but the investigation resulted in no criminal charges. Farmington police, however, indicated that Adams' “demand of $250,000 for a dolly that was not damaged or reported for theft was possible extortion" and they asked the Davis County attorney to investigate, according to the affidavit.

It’s the latest controversy involving Adams who has had no shortage of conflict in and out of Kaysville City Hall — starting with his firetruck spending controversy and, most recently, his lawsuit against a neighbor who plowed his driveway on the day after Christmas in 2016. Adams sued the neighbor, who is also the city’s public works director, for $10,000 in July, claiming the neighbor damaged his driveway with a plow when he removed the snow. That suit was dismissed with prejudice in November.

The 14-page search warrant affidavit details interviews, phone calls and recordings of conversations involving Adams, Farmington police, and in some instances, times when Adams directly called Sheriff Richardson for help, unhappy with the investigation Farmington police conducted.

What ensued were at least two attempts “to investigate and get a different outcome by Dave Adams and Sheriff Richardson,” and a planned meeting between Adams, Deru and the sheriff to arrange an $11,500 "payoff" to end Adams' and Deru's dispute, according to the affidavit.

When contacted by the Deseret News, Adams said, "This thing's a whole charade. … It's a long story." He declined to say anything more about the investigation, referring questions to his attorney, Brian Arnold.

Arnold did not return multiple requests for comment.

Farmington Police Chief Wayne Hansen also declined to comment on the case because he said it has been forwarded to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings' office.

Rawlings, too, would not comment on the extortion investigation, indicating that his investigators are working with agencies outside of Davis County as well.

Richardson said "I don't know anything" about an extortion investigation regarding Adams, but said Adams did call him and requested that a sheriff's office investigator "take a quick look at it (theft allegation) to make sure Farmington (police) did a good investigation.

"And it was determined they did a great investigation and there was nothing out of line with it and it was closed," the sheriff said.

Extortion investigation

The investigation into Adams dates back to when Deru said Adams called him multiple times a year ago, accusing him of theft of the trailer, the affidavit states.

Deru said he told Adams they could work it out, but told the investigator that the councilman demanded $250,000 by midnight, according to the affidavit.

Adams then reported the alleged theft to Kaysville police, and Kaysville — due to conflicts with Adams as a city councilman — referred the matter to Farmington police for investigation, which forwarded its findings to the Davis County Attorney’s Office to screen for potential theft charges. The attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case in March, according to the affidavit.

At the conclusion of their investigation, Farmington police also asked the Davis County Attorney's Office to investigate Adams for possible extortion, the warrant states.

In a recorded Aug. 1 interview, Deru told Webb that Adams told him: “If I get you on the criminal side then I can nail you to the fence on the civil side of things. … That’s how I’m going to get my money out of you. … You can just make it easy now and we can … get money ironed out now, or we are going to take you to the cleaners the other way," according to the warrant.

On July 20, Adams filed a small claims lawsuit against Deru and his family involving the trailer for $10,000.

Deru, on Oct. 13, filed a request to postpone a trial scheduled for January because Adams "is currently under investigation by Davis County for theft by extortion in regards to the tractor trailer dolly. David (Adams) is not allowed any contact with defendants. Any contact will be considered witness tampering," Deru wrote in the motion to postpone filed in 2nd District Court.

The request, however, was denied. The civil trial is scheduled for Jan. 18, according to the court docket.

Deru, citing the pending litigation, declined to comment Thursday.

Sheriff's 'favor'

The county investigator states in the affidavit that he learned that the Davis County sheriff was asked by Adams to “have his detectives look into the case.”

Webb says he interviewed Davis County Sheriff's Lt. Susan Poulson and Sgt. Jon West, who confirmed “they were in fact directed to investigate the case as a favor for Dave through the sheriff.”

“Lt. Poulson told (me) that the sheriff gave her a briefing on the case, telling her ‘it had been investigated and that he was not happy with the outcome of the investigation’ and asked her to have their division investigate the case again,” the investigator wrote in the affidavit. “Lt. Poulson said she expressed her hesitation and told the sheriff she ‘didn’t think it was appropriate.’”

West then reviewed Farmington's police reports and concluded that the theft allegations against Deru “had been thoroughly investigated, screened and appropriately declined,” the affidavit states. “Both West and Poulson personally briefed the sheriff on the findings and the sheriff responded with, ‘Oh OK, that works. Thanks.’”

Webb says he then learned that on May 30 — sometime after West and Poulson investigated — Davis County sheriff's detective Ty Berger was assigned to look at the same case directly from Richardson, the sheriff.

“This caused concern from Farmington (police) as it was unusual for an agency to double check another agency’s detective’s work,” Webb wrote in the affidavit.

Berger’s investigation was the “second attempt to investigate and get a different outcome by Dave Adams and Sheriff Richardson," the affidavit states. In a recorded interview with Farmington police, Berger can be heard at the beginning of the recording apologizing to Hansen, commenting that “he didn’t do it, the sheriff did."

Meanwhile, the county investigator in October helped Deru make recorded calls and text messages to Adams to obtain more information about Adams' alleged $250,000 demand.

“In the calls and text messages, Dave reduced his original amount from $250,000 to $11,500,” the affidavit states. “The two agreed to meet at the Davis County Justice Complex and Dave would let Daren witness him ‘relinquish’ his small claims case and then Dave would walk Daren into the sheriff’s office and tell Sheriff Richardson the case is settled also.”

Instead of Deru, however, Webb went to the Davis County Justice Complex, found Adams in the parking lot and told the councilman that he was conducting an extortion investigation involving him, according to the affidavit.

“Dave asked if he ‘could get the sheriff out here,’” Webb wrote, noting that he then asked, “Why the sheriff?”

“Dave did not answer, but called the sheriff,” Webb wrote.

The investigator then captured Adams’ side of the conversation on a recording, according to the affidavit.

“Dave starts the conversation with the sheriff with, “Hey Todd I guess this is all this is a setup. I’m in the parking lot and Craig Webb is out here. I don’t know what the heck is going on with my life man. Do you mind or would you rather stay out of this? … I guess this is some kind of setup to try and get me for extorting him. I don’t even understand what is going on right now man," the warrant states.

After Adams hung up the phone, Webb wrote that he asked Adams if he had come to the sheriff’s office to get money from Deru and asked him for permission to look at his phone.

“Dave did not answer but asked, ‘Can we step into his (the sheriff’s) office, this is really awkward,'” Webb wrote in the affidavit, noting that he then told Adams that the sheriff already said he didn’t want to be involved.

The investigator then told Adams that “his phone was used in a crime by arranging the payoff with (Deru) for not just the civil payoff, but having the sheriff verify the criminal complaint he asked the sheriff to investigate (Deru)," the affidavit states.

Eventually, Richardson came out to the parking lot at Adams’ request, and the investigator met with the sheriff away from Adams with his recorder on.

The investigator then told the sheriff that Adams and Deru had been having conversations about “settling their civil complaint and along with that getting rid of or stopping the criminal complaint that the sheriff had detective Ty Berger start," the warrant says.

The sheriff told Webb his detective's investigation into Deru's theft case had closed "a long time ago."

'Rabbit holes'

The sheriff, in an interview Thursday, said it's not unusual for his agency to double check other agencies' work "to make sure things don't fall through the cracks." He said he didn't do it as a "favor" for Adams.

"Anyone can come to the sheriff's office and ask for an investigation, it happens all the time," the sheriff said.

Richardson also said the only reason he planned to be present during Adams' and Deru's proposed meeting was to do a "civil standby" while they sorted out the lawsuit and not to close any criminal case into Deru after he gave Adams the money because the cases were already closed.

The sheriff also took a jab at Rawlings and said he questions "any type of accusation" from his office.

"Our county attorney just has kind of a broad imagination on some stuff," the sheriff said, laughing.

When asked to clarify, Richardson said when "you have a county attorney's office that hires their own police force … you don't get the benefit of having separation between those two powers."

"I just question the validity of any type of accusation because it's all handled in-house," Richardson said. "He could be upset with that councilman and is now trying to find something to go tag him on, you know what I'm saying?"

When told that Farmington police had recommended that the county attorney investigate the case for possible extortion, the sheriff said: "Honestly I haven't read the affidavit so I'm just telling you what I know about it and kind of how things usually are run."

Richardson added, "This is the same county attorney that went off on the attorney general for the state of Utah, and he likes to chase down little rabbit holes, and this is one of them. It's kind of a waste of time."

Rawlings, though he declined to comment on the extortion investigation, jabbed back at the sheriff, saying, "We respect the professionalism, dedication and solid efforts of investigators and deputies within the Davis County Sheriffs Office," adding his office "has a great working relationship" with the sheriff's office.

"It is too bad the sheriff chooses to distance himself from such productive cohesive teamwork. … Despite the sheriff’s disdain for our office and for all the things our top-notch investigators and prosecutors accomplish, including winning awards, we will continue to work well with sheriff’s deputies to yield positive results for the community. We will not let one individual deter and undermine our joint efforts," Rawlings said.

Contributing: Pat Reavy