Daggett county attorney let go under suspicious circumstances

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Daggett County Attorney Bryan Sidwell had a contract for four years, but today county commissioners told him he was being fired. The commissioners didn't give a solid explanation as to why they were letting Sidwell go, but many in the county say it's because he was doing his job almost too well.

Unlike other county attorneys, Sidwell is an appointed attorney, not an elected one. His contract states he can be let go with six-month's notice. Today he got that notice, and residents who were there to witness it say it's just another example of the "good ole boy" network in action.

Daggett County resident Carolyn Smith said, "I think there are some issues in this county that need to be finished and resolved."

Daggett County residents spent more than an hour explaining to commissioners why they felt Sidwell should stay in office. In less than 10 seconds, they fired him anyway.

Resident Brent Stewart said, "It just shows how our commissioners are listening to the people out there."

The vote was two to one. As for why Floyd Briggs and Henry Gutz voted to terminate Sidwell's contract, Briggs said, "More or less for a change in direction. Just try something different."

It's an answer county residents couldn't understand. Lisa Bennington said, "I find it very hard to believe there aren't personal feelings in these decisions."

Those personal feelings could involve the county's 2006 election fraud case. Many say Sidwell was looking into charging county clerk Vicky McKee and sheriff Rick Ellsworth with malfeasance of office, claiming they were in on the fix.

Because those two are close friends of Briggs, those same residents feel Briggs wanted to get Sidwell out of office before any charges could be filed. Gretchen Northcott said, "It really looks suspicious to me. I think as Bryan Sidwell digs deeper, he's finding new things, is what I'm supposing, and people are getting uncomfortable with that."

We asked commissioners Briggs and Gutz that very question. Briggs said, "No, that wasn't the reason. Like I commented today in the meeting, this wasn't a representation of the county as a whole."

Gutz said, "I'm not trying to cover anything. If there's additional investigating that goes on, it will happen."

Sidwell says he was just enforcing the laws, and if some in the county don't want the laws enforced, then he's not the right attorney for the job. "I believe that when people violate the laws, no matter who you are, the law needs to be enforced," he said.

Many feel it's that philosophy that cost him his job. "I think it's time the attorney general stood up, listen to our county, and do the right thing," Northcott said.

The AG's office was given the rest of the voter fraud cases last month. Ken Wallentine, the chief of law enforcement for the AG's Office, said he couldn't comment on the cases, but says they are being investigated.

As for Sidwell, he says he will stay in office for the next six months and will work to bring those who broke the law to justice, no matter who they are.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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