Washington County names interim attorney after resignation

Deputy Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke was named the acting county attorney in early February 2020 following the resignation of longtime County Attorney Brock Belnap, Dec. 17, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In the wake of the longtime Washington County Attorney’s resignation earlier this month, the County Commission appointed Eric Clarke to serve as the interim county attorney Wednesday.

Deputy Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke was named the acting county attorney in early February 2020 following the resignation of longtime County Attorney Brock Belnap, Feb. 4, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Clarke was the only one among the county’s deputy attorneys who submitted a letter of interest to fill the position. Speaking to St. George News following his appointment, Clarke said people rallied to him and encouraged him to apply for the position following news of Brock Belnap’s resignation.

The county announced last Tuesday that Belnap was leaving the County Attorney’s Office to join the staff of the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

“Seeing Brock go was a little bit of a shock, but Eric is going to to be a great county attorney,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said following Clarke’s appointment Wednesday.

Clarke has been with the County Attorney’s Office for nine years as a deputy county attorney and has been the county’s lead civil attorney for the majority of that time. He has also served as the county’s lawyer during numerous County Commission meetings.

“I am super humbled and grateful that so many people came to me in the week since Brock resigned and encouraged me and fully supported me in becoming the acting county attorney,” Clarke said.

Clarke said he plans to continue the relationships and programs Belnap built over the years, including close connections to area law enforcement and the court support services program. He also hopes to secure permanent funding for court support services rather than have it survive on annual grants.

Eric Clarke (left) sits with the Washington County Commission during one of its bimonthly meetings, St. George, Utah, Jan 21, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“Housing people in jail isn’t helping if other issues aren’t addressed,” Clarke said. He added  the court support services program Belnap started gets people “nationally recognized assessments” for treatment and other recommendations that become a part of their court -issued sentencing. It also helps people without decriminalizing certain substances or behaviors, he said.

Over the past several months, Clarke has been involved in the legal side of securing the proposed Northern Corridor and the renewal of the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan, or HCP, related to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

“That’s something I’ve been putting 20-30 hours a week into routinely over the last six months,” he said “It would be kind of silly to hand it off and ask someone to take that over.”

Connected to the desert reserve is the issue of public lands overall, which Clarke said he also feels he has the expertise necessary to represent the county’s interest in this area.

Though Clarke was the only applicant for the interim county attorney position, Iverson said selecting him wasn’t a hard choice for the commission.

“We know Eric very well. We’ve worked with him on a daily basis,” Iverson said. “We have confidence in Eric and 100% confidence in his ability to lead the Attorney’s Office.”

Clarke will serve as the interim Washington County Attorney until someone is elected to fill the remaining two years of Belnap’s term. Clarke is hoping he’ll be that someone since he’s planning to run for the position.

Individuals who plan to run for Washington County Attorney this Fall have until March 19 to file their candidacy with the county.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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