OGDEN — In the wake of news that Ogden police are investigating Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson, the official says he has done no wrong and is at a loss to explain what may be behind the probe.
He went to Facebook Friday to offer his take on the situation, also saying he plans to stay on as a commissioner, an elected post, “until my name is cleared.” He had announced Tuesday that he would be stepping down as commissioner next January to take a job as deputy director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, but that change is now on hold.
“First, I categorically deny that I have done anything wrong in my tenure as a Weber County Commissioner, and certainly nothing that merits an independent investigation by the Ogden City Police Department,” Gibson said in his Facebook post.
He said he has no idea what police are investigating and wasn’t aware of the inquiry until shortly before the Standard-Examiner published an article on the matter Wednesday night. He hasn’t been contacted by law enforcement, he said.
“If and when I ever am able to get to the bottom of what supposedly is being ‘investigated,’ I may then be in a position to respond more fully,” wrote Gibson, a former Utah state representative in his second term as a county commissioner. He didn’t immediately respond to a Standard-Examiner query seeking additional comment.
At the same time, a Facebook post Friday from the Department of Natural Resources — in the comment section of an earlier post Tuesday on the naming of Gibson to the deputy director’s post — offered words of support.
“All we know is what's being reported by the Standard-Examiner,” the post reads. “Kerry is known to be respectful, fair and honest. We believe in him. We anticipate we will receive more information in the coming days and weeks and Kerry will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
DNR spokesman Nathan Schwebach said Gibson, who originally planned to step down as county commissioner on Jan. 12, can’t hold his county post and the state job at the same time. Thus, in light of his plans to remain in the Weber County job, the agency is evaluating things.
“We need to see how the investigation plays out, so we're going back to the drawing board internally and we'll see where we go from here,” Schwebach said. “If and when he’s cleared from wrongdoing, which we believe he will be, we’d love to have him aboard. But we’re in wait-and-see mode.”
Police on Wednesday said they launched an inquiry into Gibson in response to a request by Weber County officials, but they offered no additional detail about the spur or the focus. The two other county commissioners, James Ebert and Jim Harvey, said they were aware of an investigation or potential investigation involving a county employee, but offered no other details.
‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED TO HURT’
In his Facebook post Friday, Gibson, a Republican, also decried the anonymous release of information about the investigation before news became public.
“It seems politically convenient that while I have not been able to get any information regarding these rumors, someone with access to the information has used it to anonymously defame me. I have reason to believe that public disclosure of this ‘investigation’ is prompted not by fact, but is politically motivated to hurt and injure my reputation and good name,” Gibson wrote.
He has dedicated his life in recent decades “to tirelessly serving the people of Weber County,” he continued. “I have always served with integrity and transparency. I look forward to clearing my name and restoring my reputation of integrity.”
After Gibson’s announcement last Tuesday that’d he be taking the natural resources post, two would-be candidates — Utah Rep. Justin Fawson and Hooper City Councilwoman Lori Brinkerhoff — announced interest in filling the remainder of his unfilled term.
Likewise, Weber County Republican Party officials said they’d start the process of finding a replacement. Now, the party’s plans have been put on hold in light of Gibson’s plans to remain a county commissioner.
Fawson, for his part, said he has withdrawn his candidacy.
“If there is an attempt at dirty politics then I’d be extremely disappointed,” he said. At the same time, Fawson, from North Ogden, said he owes it to his constituents as a state lawmaker “to ensure our political environment is transparent and honest.”
Brinkerhoff was already planning to run for Gibson’s post — up for election next year — and she said those plans don’t change.
“I have been in the formal process of organizing a campaign and I’m not going to change direction on that. I’m just going to press forward,” she said.
She doesn’t think the situation is politically motivated, expressed confidence in the ability of Ogden police to investigate the matter and questioned Gibson’s “hasty” announcement last Tuesday to step down to take the DNR job. Such a seemingly sudden announcement, she argues, would be bound to prompt wondering: “Is there more to the story?”
Gibson addressed a meeting of the Weber County Republican Party Executive Committee on Thursday, echoing remarks in his Facebook post, according to Fawson, who was there. He said the committee approved a resolution prompted by Gibson’s situation emphasizing the importance of presuming one’s innocence until proven guilty.
Last month, before news of the investigation emerged, county commissioners shuffled their responsibilities, though it’s not clear if the changes have any relation to the police probe. 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 took over Harvey’s responsibilities as liaison to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office and the Weber County Attorney’s Office.
Reporter Leia Larsen contributed to this story.