Weber County commissioners shuffled duties before news of a police inquiry

Friday , December 15, 2017 - 5:15 AM17 comments

TIM VANDENACK & CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Before news emerged of an investigation involving Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson, the three county commissioners shuffled duties.

The connection, if any, to the Ogden Police Department probe, remains unclear.

Whatever the case, a seemingly larger chunk of responsibility fell on the shoulders of Commissioner Jim Harvey with the change, implemented in early November. He went from overseeing just one of the three divisions of county operations — culture, parks and recreation — to overseeing two, taking on community and economic development, which Gibson had overseen.

The responsibilities of James Ebert, chairman of the Weber County Commission, didn’t change. He maintained oversight of administrative services, the third division of county operations.

The three commissioners kept mum on Thursday, a day after a police spokeswoman confirmed that the department — at Weber County’s request — had launched an investigation into Gibson for reasons that haven’t been publicly divulged. Ebert declined comment and Harvey was occupied by a family emergency. Gibson, who announced plans Tuesday to step down as commissioner to take a job with the state, didn’t respond to queries seeking comment.

RELATED: Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson facing Ogden police investigation

But change had been afoot, as shown by work charts for the three Weber County commissioners supplied by the office in response to a public records request from the Standard-Examiner. Per last month’s change, the charts show, Harvey took on oversight of economic development operations, road maintenance, planning, engineering and more from Gibson — functions that are under the umbrella of community and economic development.

Gibson, for his part, took over Harvey’s responsibilities as liaison to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office and the Weber County Attorney’s Office.

As a result of the change, Douglas Larsen, who heads up Weber Economic Development Partnership, said he now answers to Harvey rather than Gibson. “The commission did not express to us why that change happened,” Larsen said Thursday.

On the flip side, Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson now works directly with Gibson, not Harvey. 

“We’re happy with whatever they decide. We run well independently, so we don’t need a lot of commission oversight,” Thompson said. “I try to stay in contact with them when we have notable events happening, such as a fatal accident or schools that have to be evacuated.”

Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch said commissioners make the call on reassigning duties, administrative action solely in their purview.

Meantime, Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt offered no new details on the inquiry into Gibson. County officials approached the police department, he said, and police agreed to take on the investigation. “We’ll have to see where it leads us,” Watt said.

RELATED: Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson to step down to take DNR post

Officials from the Weber County Attorney’s Office did not respond to queries Thursday seeking comment.

On Wednesday, Ebert warned against trying anyone “in the court of public opinion” while Gibson expressed surprise at news of the police inquiry. The Standard-Examiner has requested public records from county officials related to Gibson’s performance and work record in county government, but has not yet gotten a response.

Gibson, a former Utah state representative, announced plans Tuesday to take a deputy director’s job with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, stepping down as county commissioner Jan. 12.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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