Washington Terrace council member under fire over election issue resigns
WASHINGTON TERRACE — A Washington Terrace City Council member who had come under fire for allegedly pressuring a tenant in one of his rental properties to register to vote has resigned.
Blair Brown, in his third term as a member of the City Council, confirmed to city officials Monday that he was stepping down, according to City Manager Tom Hanson. The resignation took effect immediately and city leaders have started to process to find a replacement.
“He just felt it was in the best interest of all concerned,” Hanson said. Brown, first elected to the council in 2011, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
Brown became the focus of scrutiny after a tenant in one of his properties, Jarret Smith, revealed that the city council member had pressured him to register to vote in a series of conversations and in a text message. Brown was not up for election himself but had been campaigning for two others seeking election to the City Council in elections later this year, Nathan Howard and Jill Christiansen, according to Smith and others.
The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees elections in Utah, looked into the matter, kicking it back to local officials to handle. Hanson said Brown’s actions didn’t constitute a crime but suggested they were questionable. “It dilutes the integrity of the election process,” Hanson said.
The city will review election rules to guard against a repeat, Hanson said. The polarizing situation, he added, underscores the need to “bring the city together.”
“Sorry this whole situation happened,” said Mayor Mark Allen. “That’s very hard for him and very hard for the city.”
The city will be seeking out candidates to fill out the remainder of Brown’s term, which runs through 2023. Applications are due in the city on Sept. 29, Hanson said, and the City Council is set to review and interview candidates at its Oct. 5 meeting, possibly picking a replacement that day. The City Council is responsible for picking a replacement.
Smith had no immediate comment on the turn of events.
John Jenkins, though, a local citizen who publicly spoke out on the situation at a Washington Terrace City Council meeting last week, called it an example of the public stepping forward and demanding action. “For the first time in a long time, I feel like the people of Washington Terrace had a voice, and that voice was finally heard,” he said.
Jenkins got involved because he was upset over what Smith went through. “I don’t have a personal ax to grind with Blair Brown, but this was so egregious and the fear he put into Jarret’s little family, I just couldn’t let that go,” he said.
Smith said the pressure for him and his wife to register to vote from Brown started verbally. He put his landlord off, ultimately getting a text from Brown, who again brought up the issue of registering to vote. Smith had actually registered, but his wife hadn’t and he said he’d convey Brown’s message to her.
“One way relationship,” Brown texted back. “I’m starting to think maybe you should move out.”