FARMINGTON — Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson — who at times has had rocky relationships with other county officials — won't be running for re-election.
"Nope, I'm going to retire at the end of the year," Richardson told the Deseret News on Thursday, the deadline for 2018 candidate filings.
Richardson has had a turbulent relationship with other county leaders — including the Davis County Attorney's Office, the Davis County auditor, and Davis County commissioners — over controversies that have included five internal audits and a stunning request in October for a $15 million budget increase.
But Richardson on Thursday said those issues did not play a role in his decision not to seek a third term.
"In law enforcement, we're kind of used to dealing with stuff like that, so for me it's the fact that I've done two terms," he said. "I'm more of a term limit guy, and, you know, it's just time for me to move on."
Richardson, leaving behind more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement, said he has "no idea" what's next for him, but he'll see what kind of opportunities arise.
Two candidates have filed to run for Richardson's seat: Arnold "Butch" Butcher, currently a captain in the sheriff's office, and Kelly Sparks, deputy director of Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training.
Butcher and Sparks said Thursday that frustrations — not necessarily with Richardson himself but frustrations with the situation — played a part in their decisions to run for his seat, regardless of whether the sheriff decided to run for re-election or not.
"Regardless of who is to blame or who you point your finger at, I feel like he was at the point where he was up against all this opposition and that was affecting the sheriff's office," Butcher said, adding that his goal is to "further the sheriff's office, and it needed someone fresh and new to do that."
Sparks, who has been the deputy director of POST for the past 10 years, said he has been "concerned" about Richardson's relationship with other law enforcement agencies and he was driven to throw his hat in the ring "by the desire to make things better."
"I see it as an essential part of what the sheriff's office does," Sparks said. "We need to be able to work with those other departments, and I see that as an important part of maintaining the public's trust. … The citizens of the county have the right to expect the highest possible quality, transparency and accountability from the sheriff's office, so I want to make sure we're providing that as well."
County leaders on Thursday didn't have much to say about Richardson's decision to retire.
"I don't know what I could say," said Jim Smith, chairman of the Davis County Commission, noting that he didn't hear that Richardson wasn't officially running until Thursday.
"People seem to think there's some bad blood; he and I have had a couple of disagreements, but he's a fine guy — the kind of guy you'd like to have be your neighbor," Smith said, adding that public service can be a "high-stress job, especially in law enforcement, so I don't think I was surprised when he decided not to run again."
Smith and other commissioners clashed with Richardson last fall, when the sheriff requested 84 new deputies, jailers and other personnel in a nearly $15 million budget increase.
"I'm not running either," Smith added, "so I wish the both of us the best."
The commissioners also clashed with Richardson over past audits — at times ordering the sheriff to undergo more training and attend County Commission meetings on a monthly basis to certify in public that he was in compliance with all county policies.
"It was never about personalities and things like that or agenda, it was just trying to do the right thing," Smith said. "We had disagreements and we had to take a strong stance, but he's complied, so we're moving forward."
Davis County Clerk/Auditor Curtis Koch, whose office has conducted five audits into the sheriff's office, declined to comment on Richardson's decision not to seek re-election.
When asked if he's had concern about the way the sheriff's office has run in the past, Koch said the audits speak for themselves.
Late last year, a rift was reported between the Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings and Richardson over an extortion investigation of controversial Kaysville Councilman Dave Adams. Rawlings and Richardson exchanged jabs at each other when the Deseret News asked them about the case in December.
At the time, the sheriff questioned the "validity" of any accusations from Rawlings' office, saying, "Rawlings has kind of a broad imagination." Rawlings said, "It's too bad the sheriff chooses to distance himself" from the county attorney's office.
Focus of audits
The sheriff’s office has also been the subject of several audits ranging from investigations into the alleged misuse of public funds to time card fraud. Those audits include:
• In 2017, Koch looked into whether a deputy’s trip to Montana using a sheriff’s vehicle to attend the funeral of a fallen officer was a misuse of public funds. The amount of money put on the county’s credit card was small and the audit shouldn’t have turned into a big deal, according to Koch. But the auditor’s staff soon met with interference in their investigation.
“It seems the interference of the audit was the result of a direct order issued by Sheriff Todd Richardson to (sheriff’s) staff not to meet with audit staff,” according to the final report issued in August.
When Koch interviewed Richardson, he asked whether he was telling his employees not to talk. Richardson said he only told them that he wanted to talk to Koch first, the report states.
“If you think that I’m walking around telling people not to talk to anybody, it’s not that way,” Richardson said during his interview. “Now, associated with that, there is a real frustration, and the feeling is not very high and the relationships, I think, are very strangled right now.”
Ultimately, the audit determined that the use of county money for the trip was “a misuse of county resources and public money.” It also recommended “a public reprimand or another appropriate response” for Richardson’s alleged efforts to obstruct the audit.
“Not only was the audit significantly hindered by (the office’s) unwillingness to cooperate, but it appears that an indication of how DCSO administration intends to interact with and cooperate with future audits was provided in the sheriff’s statements,” according to the audit’s conclusion.
• In 2016, deputy Blake Nobel was allegedly marking hours on his time card that he didn’t actually work, and doing it under Richardson’s instruction, even though other sheriff’s administrators, including Nobel’s immediate supervisor, refused to sign Nobel’s time card. Richardson had promised Nobel an advanced rate of leave accrual when he hired him, according to Koch’s final investigative report into alleged time card fraud. But the advanced rate of leave was not approved by the Davis County Commission.
“This action was a violation of county policy and reflects a culture of ‘favorites’ within the Davis County Sheriff’s Office,” the report states.
What the audit ultimately concluded was that the sheriff's office “engaged in deceptive hiring practices” when Nobel was hired and “made an offer that had not been approved by the personnel department or the County Commission.
The commissioners issued a strongly worded letter to Richardson regarding the incident on March 15, 2017.
“We are deeply troubled by the information contained in the internal audit relative to your handling of former deputy Blake Nobel. Regardless of your motivation or your apparent understanding of governing policies, the facts support the conclusion that your actions violated county policy. Additionally, this situation indicates a serious lack of good judgment on your part.”
Because of that, the commission ordered the sheriff to attend County Commission meetings on a monthly basis and “certify in a public meeting that you are in compliance with all Davis County policies.” The commissioners also ordered Richards to undergo more training.
After the audit was completed, the case was sent to the Utah Attorney General’s Office to review for possible criminal charges. But the office declined to file charges, stating, “This case lacks a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” in a letter dated June, 28, 2017. The attorney general’s office determined the alleged time card fraud was more of a “technical violation” and that the Davis County Commission had already taken action.
• Another audit into the sheriff’s office stemmed from a 2015 incident.
In a letter by Koch dated Sept. 30, 2016, he said he was asked to look into hotel charges made by a deputy involved in a shooting in 2015. It was standard procedure of the sheriff's office to send an officer away to a hotel after such a shooting, according to the report. The officer in this case stayed at the Little America Hotel one night for $128.37 and the Anniversary Inn for $179.03 the next.
Koch noted in his letter to commissioners that in August 2016, a deputy stayed at Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley for two nights — in the “luxury suite with hot tub” room — for a total of $862.37. Richardson told that Koch that lodge was the only available option due to the Outdoor Retailers Convention.
“As the county auditor and budget officer, I continue to have concerns as to whether this practice is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” Koch wrote.
Richardson dismissed the audits Thursday, taking a shot at Koch.
"There were so many audits because we have a clerk/auditor who really doesn’t know the nature of what he’s supposed to be doing," the sheriff said. "I have no worries about if you want to come take a look at how we spend money and what we spend it for. I don’t have any issue with it at all. The problem I had with the audits was their conclusions."
Richardson said paying for deputies to go to funerals wasn't "misappropriation of funds at all," calling it "one of those delicate things you have to be able to do to keep the morale high."
"These are the types of audits that were being done. I disagreed with them," Richardson said. "And anybody who looked at them agreed with me. Every one of those was appropriate uses of funds except for what my clerk/auditor thought was."
Richardson added, "There's always people who don't agree with the sheriff," so the audits "didn't have anything to do with why I decided to retire."