If Kevin Burns wants to do what’s best for Weber County, he’ll withdraw as a candidate for sheriff.
And if he doesn’t, county Republicans need to make sure he doesn’t appear on the November ballot.
Burns lost his job because of a crisis in the evidence room at the sheriff’s office.
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On Dec. 8, someone found a technician intoxicated in the evidence room. Tests found she was high on methamphetamine.
Later, she admitted that she’d used meth from 15 to 20 criminal case files. Sheriff Terry Thompson fired her, effective Jan. 12.
Burns supervised the evidence room at the time of her drug use. The sheriff rewarded him with a promotion to chief corrections deputy.
Thompson announced Jan. 11 that he would not seek a third term, prompting Burns to file as a Republican candidate for sheriff.
Then a funny thing happened. Thompson released a statement Monday night that as a result of an internal investigation, “the supervisor’s employment with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office has ended.”
Burns repeatedly failed to act on complaints by detectives, deputies, crime scene technicians, and prosecutors about the evidence room, according to the news release.
His infractions included “neglect of duty, failure to supervise, failure to report incompetent work, omitting information and failure to report information to a supervisor, failure to report misconduct by an employee, failure to report damage to the evidence room and disparaging remarks about fellow staff.”
Burns, reached Tuesday, said he had retired, retained an attorney and eventually planned to discuss the details surrounding his departure.
But in the meantime, he’s still running for sheriff.
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“The campaign is moving forward,” Burns told Mark Shenefelt, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.
That’s a mistake.
At least 24 prisoners died in the Weber County Jail between 2005 and 2017 — the second highest total in Utah, behind Salt Lake County. As a result, the county faces two expensive lawsuits filed by families of prisoners who died in 2016.
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This is not the time to even consider a candidate who contributed to the turmoil in the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
Burns chose not to collect signatures, meaning he won’t appear on the June primary ballot unless he wins the nomination Saturday at the county’s Republican convention.
Delegates can end his candidacy there, and they should if Burns refuses to withdraw from the race beforehand.
Perhaps he can make his case as a legitimate candidate in 2022. But right now, Burns would only detract from a vital discussion of reforms necessary in the sheriff’s office.
If he wants to do what’s best for Weber County, he’ll end his campaign.