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VERNAL — The board of the Uintah Transportation Special Service District has asked for an independent investigation into "rumors and allegations of improprieties" following the recent resignations of its executive director and secretary.
Cheri McCurdy, the district's executive director, tendered her resignation in a Feb. 3 letter that was released a few hours before the board was scheduled to meet behind closed doors to discuss ongoing issues related to the resignation of McCurdy's secretary, Chelsey Hunt.
Hunt had worked under McCurdy for several years before resigning on Oct. 15, according to Adam Massey, chairman of the transportation district's board.
On Wednesday, a member of Hunt's family told the Deseret News that Hunt is not currently able to discuss the reasons for her resignation. Members of the transportation district board have also declined to talk about Hunt's departure, except to say in a statement that efforts to "follow-up on things stemming from her resignation resulted in closed session meetings over several months."
Two sources close to the situation told the Deseret News that McCurdy allegedly had Hunt take the notary public certification test on her behalf. The sources, who spoke on condition that their names not be used, said McCurdy is also accused of having Hunt run personal errands for her while Hunt was on the clock for the district.
After Hunt resigned, she filed a claim for unemployment benefits, alleging that McCurdy had created a hostile work environment in the two-person office, sources said. During the process of disputing the unemployment claim, McCurdy allegedly used a stamp bearing Massey's signature to sign a letter without authorization, sources told the Deseret News.
"There have been rumors and allegations of improprieties related to the two resignations," Massey said Tuesday, reading from a prepared statement.
"The district has referred all information it has to the Uintah County Attorney's Office and the Utah Attorney General's Office," he said. "The district believes those offices are the appropriate authorities to investigate whether any improprieties have occurred."
The district, which builds and repairs roads in Uintah County using millions of dollars in federal mineral lease funds generated by oil and natural gas production in Utah, has also ordered an audit of its records, Massey said.
Ironically, McCurdy took the reins of the transportation district after testifying against its former director, Kathryn V. Erickson, in a federal obstruction of justice case in 2007.
McCurdy, who was Erickson's secretary before becoming the district's executive director, was a key witness for federal prosecutors. She testified that she was present when Erickson and Roosevelt businessman Gilman N. Mitchell falsified a transportation district document that was later submitted to a federal grand jury in January 2000.
The grand jury had been impaneled to investigate allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks on federally funded road projects handled by the special service district in the late 1990s.
Mitchell and Erickson were the only ones charged following a five-year grand jury investigation. They were each found guilty of three counts of obstruction of justice. Court records show their convictions were upheld on appeal.
McCurdy, who had been with the district for 17 years when she resigned, said late Wednesday that she believes the board's call for an outside investigation and audit is "appropriate under the present circumstances."
"It protects the district and it protects me," McCurdy wrote in an email. "My resignation was a decision made by me to reduce stress as a result of increasing political pressures and overwhelming workload.
"I made a choice to pursue opportunities that will be a greater overall benefit to my health and my family," she added. "I'm truly looking forward to new direction and opportunities."