"I am not a crook" ~ Richard M. Nixon, 37th President of the United States
Last week I received an email requesting I write about how an elected official can be removed from municipal office.
Except in the most unusual of circumstances, the only answer is to vote him or her out. If you intend to "hound" a person out of office through the use of innuendo, pillory, rumor and social media posts, it is not only inappropriate but usually ineffective and lessens you as a person.
Everyone can think of at least one local official that does not deserve to be in office. Whether these are people who are in over their heads, people you disagree with, or just people who thrive on disagreeing, the will of the people can only really be expressed at the ballot box and not through public clamor, the whim of the mob, or in the foyer at church.
There is no recall provision for local government officials in Utah State law. However, Utah law provides that a municipal officer shall be removed from office if he or she is convicted of official misconduct. Official misconduct is a class 'A' misdemeanor.
A person is guilty of official wrongdoing if they willfully omit to perform any duty or willfully and corruptly are guilty of oppression, misconduct, misfeasance, or malfeasance in office (Utah Code 10-2-826). This is what is sometimes called judicial impeachment.
Being accused of the crime is not sufficient to cause removal of the official. The officer is only removed from office after he or she has been convicted of the crime of official misconduct.
The Utah Municipal Officers and Employees Ethics Act provides that an elected official who knowingly and intentionally violates the Act can be dismissed from office. The Act prescribes certain conduct as criminal and requires disclosure of conflict of interests. The sanction for violations of both the criminal provisions and the failure to make disclosure appears to include the possibility of dismissal from office.
The reason that they hold municipal elections every two years is to give the people a chance to speak. An elected official should not be subject to removal from office except in the most serious of circumstances. It should be a rare occurrence.
A note of interest is that several Northern Utah cities have jointly desired to exercise their authority to enter into an inter-local cooperation agreement in a manner that is mutually beneficial and economical for each entity and its citizenry.
This agreement follows state law and provides for the creation of a local ethics commission to review complaints regarding the actions of a local entity's elected officials and any appointed executive officer.
Additionally, the creation of this commission provides for independent and knowledgeable members with an understanding of the States Ethics Act, the laws regarding conflict of interest, and the applicable administrative processes.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at email@example.com.