Cache County election officials under investigation for possible criminal conduct

The Cache County Attorney's office is investigating the county clerk's office to see if criminal conduct occurred based on information provided by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson's office.

The Cache County Attorney's office is investigating the county clerk's office to see if criminal conduct occurred based on information provided by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson's office. (

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LOGAN — The Cache County Attorney's office is investigating the county clerk's office to see if criminal conduct occurred, based on information provided by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson's office, which oversees elections in the state.

"It's not election fraud," Cache County Deputy County Attorney Taylor Sorensen told the Deseret News on Wednesday, declining to be more specific about the charges county election officials could face. "I think that would go too far."

Sorensen said the investigation is "related to something back in October" rather than an ongoing recount of November's election results in several local races. He said his office is "investigating the matter to see if there was any criminal conduct."

Ballots for this year's municipal elections, held Nov. 21 to accommodate a special election to fill the 2nd Congressional District vacancy, were mailed out on Oct. 31. Sorensen said he was "not willing to say" that's what is being investigated.

He said the county attorney's office is "still investigating exactly what happened to try to determine who was responsible, if anyone" for the issue raised by the lieutenant governor's office.

Later Wednesday, Cache County Executive David Zook said in a statement that the lieutenant governor's office contacted county officials regarding a concern "related to a document that was filed by the Cache County Clerk's office with the Lt. Governor's office."

Zook said the investigation was initiated by Cache County.

"We are confident in the integrity of election results in Cache County," Zook said. "Cache County is confident that the election process carried out by election staff has resulted in trustworthy and verifiable results."

The lieutenant governor's office had little to say.

"We are aware of an election-related investigation in Cache County. The races undergoing recounts on Dec. 13 are unrelated to this matter," state Elections Director Ryan Cowley said in a statement that referred further inquiries to the Cache County attorney.

Cache County Clerk/Auditor David Benson and County Election Supervisor Dustin Hansen are both on administrative leave, Cache County Council Chairman Dave Erickson confirmed, along with at least one other individual.

"Anyone that might have had any responsibility of that certain area is on administrative leave," Erickson said, adding that Benson, an elected official, chose last week to "get right out of the picture and let this investigation go on."

Zook said the county clerk placed two employees on administrative leave, "standard practice in personnel investigations." Zook said the county clerk "placed himself on administrative leave as well," since neither he nor the county council has that authority.

Erickson said he expects a "fairly fast investigation" that could be completed within days into the issue, which he described as related to election preparations, declining to offer any more details.

Another source told the Deseret News that the lieutenant governor's office notified the county about an "irregularity in one of those preparations," which must be certified by state election officials in the run-up to an election.

The county council chairman said he didn't know if there would be criminal charges filed in connection with the issue but stressed it should raise "zero" concerns about the integrity of last month's election.

"We're all about the integrity of the elections. We're all about that. But there's so many things in an election. This is all before the election occurred," he said. "Everything was all taken care of so it would not affect the integrity of the election. You'll find out."

He said he's anxious himself to find out why the issue occurred.

"If it was just human error, then a process needs to be perfected. We'll find out," Erickson said. "If it was intentional, then yes, charges should be brought."

Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch, who lobbies the Utah Legislature on behalf of the state's county clerks and auditors, said in a statement that there are "extensive election processes and safeguards" in place.

"A beautiful foundation of our country is presumed innocence until proven otherwise," Hatch said. "With no details about the allegations, we can only assume that the multiple layers of controls in the election administration process helped uncover whatever the alleged wrongdoing is."

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Lisa Riley Roche


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