CEDAR CITY – Donations of nearly $2,100 to the Iron County Sheriff’s Office may satisfy a debt the county commissioners say the sheriff owes the county, but whether the money will end the possibility of criminal charges against the sheriff and his lieutenant remains to be seen.
The County Commission approved $2,040 in donations earmarked for the sheriff’s office Monday, authorizing County Auditor Dan Jessen to put the money into its own separate account under the Municipal Services Fund.
The process was followed as part of a new county policy dictating how donations will be handled.
Of the $2,040 donations received from several donors, $1,500 was intended by one of the donors to help pay for a treadmill desk Sheriff Mark Gower purchased last year for his employees, a purchase that was called into question by county commissioners.
While Gower used funds from his own budget to buy the $1,000 equipment, the commissioners called the purchase an “inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money” and ordered him to repay it. While Gower initially agreed to repay the county for the treadmill, he later said he didn’t believe the money was owed, arguing his budget is autonomous from the commission.
Gower also pointed to several other governmental agencies throughout the state that have made similar purchases for their employees, including the Department of Public Safety that bought a treadmill desk for their dispatch center in Cedar City.
Despite this, sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser set up an online fundraiser in January trying to raise the money to help repay the equipment. But Schlosser took the site down 24 hours later and refunded all the donations on the recommendation of the county attorney’s office.
However, Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett still turned the information over to Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke, requesting he screen it for possible criminal charges against Schlosser for soliciting funds and Gower for misusing public money. Van Dyke sent the case to Kanab City Police Department for further investigation.
After the issue was brought to the public’s attention, the Sheriff’s Office received the $1,500 donation that was physically brought into the office by the donor. Under the new donation policy however, it is up to the County Commission how the donations will be used.
Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff said he believes the commissioners will likely vote to transfer $1,000 of the $1,500 to the general fund to cover the cost of the treadmill. The rest of the money will go into the sheriff’s budget after he submits a budget request.
“This will make the county whole and that’s all I care about,” Brinkerhoff said.
While all three commissioners said they would like to put the entire incident behind them, it may not be that easy with potential criminal charges looming in the background and several questions still surrounding the issue.
Some of the questions revolve around whether the commission can require the sheriff to repay the money when, according to the county auditor, his budget is considered autonomous from the commissioners.
Additionally, the Kane County Attorney may have to consider if there is a an issue with the commissioners accepting donation money that indirectly resulted from Schlosser soliciting the funds online, something Garrett argues may have been against the law.
There is also the question of whether the commissioners’ acceptance of the donations could potentially dissolve Schlosser of any potential criminal liability.
The Kane County Attorney previously told multiple news sources he would have an answer within two to three weeks after receiving Garrett’s information in January. Several calls by Cedar City News to Van Dyke’s Office in the past three weeks for a status update have gone unreturned.
Gower has been unavailable for comment.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.