FARMINGTON -- Complaints of a campaign flier "defacing" the Benchland Water District's Nov. 8 sample ballot are being investigated by Davis County law enforcement agencies at the request of the county attorney's office.
Defacing an election sample ballot is a class C misdemeanor
, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine, according to Utah law.
The reportedly defaced sample ballot appears on the back of a campaign flier promoting challengers Reid Neumann, Greg Jones and write-in candidate Sherm Hoskins to fill three open four-year seats on the Benchland Water District Board.
The water district, established in 1969, provides secondary water to 900 users in Kaysville, Farmington and Fruit Heights.
Both Neumann and Jones were successful in capturing seats on the seven-member board, while Hoskins placed last among the field of candidates.
The flier, paid for by Neumann, was hand-delivered to homes within the district between Nov. 5 and Nov. 7.
After receiving two letters and several phone calls Nov. 9 from district members complaining of the flier, Benchland Water District manager Scott Parsell said he made the Davis County election clerk's office, which tabulated the district's Nov. 8 election results, and the state election office, aware of the situation.
Since then, the district has forwarded the matter to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
Rawlings said, based on conversations his office has had with district officials, he has referred the matter to the local police agencies having jurisdiction for further investigation.
"There may be no crime here whatsoever," he said.
That is the way the district candidates who prepared and produced the campaign flier see it.
"It's a matter of an interpretation of the law. We don't know how everything applies to fliers," said Neumann, who admits to paying for and producing the flier with the sample ballot on the back.
Neumann said he is "very surprised" the flier he used has garnered this much attention and this level of investigation.
"In my opinion, I don't feel I altered the ballot or anything," he said, "but we are fully cooperating with law enforcement."
"If that is defacing a ballot, absolutely we did it," Jones said.
But the sample ballot featured on the flier isn't a true sample ballot in that it depicts marking a "bubble" ballot rather than the touch-screen electronic ballot used in the election, he said.
Benchland Water District Board Chairman Phil Leonard, who placed fourth in the Nov. 8 contest, said Neumann, Jones and Hoskins may only get their hands slapped as a result of their action, but he is hoping for more than that.
"There is a fine line between the law and stupidity," Leonard said.
Having lost his re-election bid to Neumann, Jones and Paul White after serving three four-year terms on the water board, Leonard said he recognizes some may contend that he is just "sour grapes."
"My concern is for the district," Leonard said. "If I lose, I lose. But (expletive), I want to lose fairly."