Baird files complaint with Grand County accusing council chairman of misconduct
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Sep 04, 2014 | 2477 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A candidate for political office is calling for a formal investigation into Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson’s conduct during a sparsely attended special service district board meeting last spring.

Chris Baird, who is running for a seat on the county council, wants the Utah Attorney General’s Office to look into his allegations that Jackson acted inappropriately during the Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District’s (CHCSSD’s) April 24 meeting.

Jackson, in turn, accused Baird of acting to further his own political ambitions, and the council’s chairman said he’s confident that investigators will find that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said that Baird’s complaint has been referred to the Utah Attorney General’s office. However, Missy Larsen, a chief communications officer with that office, said she can neither confirm nor deny that any related investigations are currently under way.

Generally speaking, Larsen said, her office would assign a screening team to a case once it receives a formal complaint.

“[But] I don’t know if that has happened in this particular circumstance,” she told The Times-Independent this week.

Baird did not attend the CHCSSD meeting in question, and he says that eyewitnesses who were there only approached him with their concerns within the last week and a half.

According to those unidentified eyewitnesses, Jackson allegedly stood in for an absent special service district board member — a charge that the board’s chairman denies.

“To say that Lynn participated as a member is not correct,” CHCSSD Board chairman Doug Fix told The Times-Independent.

“Lynn was never included in the quorum, and he did not participate in any vote,” Fix said. “It was very clearly rejected as an approach.”

According to Fix, the meeting that afternoon started later than scheduled because two of the board’s members were absent, while a third member was tardy.

As they waited for that third member to show up, Jackson volunteered to fill in for Grand County Council liaison Ken Ballantyne, who was away on urgent family matters, according to Fix.

However, Fix said he never authorized Jackson to serve as Ballantyne’s proxy, and he said that Jackson’s suggestion quickly became irrelevant once the tardy board member arrived at the meeting.

“All of this occurred in just a couple of minutes,” Fix said.

While Jackson stuck around for the rest of the meeting, Fix insists that he treated Jackson as a member of the public, and not as a voting member of the board.

“I’m confident that the [meeting] minutes will show that no vote was taken where Lynn participated,” Fix said.

Those minutes state that Jackson announced he was representing the county council in Ballantyne’s absence, and Baird maintains that Jackson strong-armed his way onto the board.

“It wasn’t like he was invited to participate, and so he had to forcefully assert an illegitimate right,” Baird said.

But Jackson stands by Fix’s recollections of the meeting.

“I wasn’t allowed in as a voting member,” Jackson said.

Baird maintains that Jackson had ulterior motives that afternoon, and says Jackson’s position gave him a pathway to gain access to the board’s closed session.

“To me, the suspicion is that Jackson’s real, main intent was to get into that closed session, which he did,” Baird said.

Baird’s complaint goes on to question whether Jackson intended to harm the employment status or reputation of any district employee during that closed session. While he declined to speak on the record about specifics, Baird says he has “circumstantial evidence” of that alleged harm.

“This circumstantial evidence is being compiled and will soon be submitted to the appropriate law enforcement entity,” Baird wrote in his complaint.

Jackson and Fix both acknowledge that Jackson was present during the closed session. But Jackson says he made no attempt to influence personnel-related matters.

“That’s absolutely false,” he said.

According to Fix, no deliberations occurred — and no votes were taken — during that time.

Fix says that although Jackson’s request to participate in the closed-door meeting was not common, it’s not unheard of, either. He says he has invited another member of the public to join a closed session on one other occasion.

However, Baird says the county council’s bylaws clearly state that council members shall participate as members of the public. And members of the public can never gain access to closed sessions, he says.

His complaint asks investigators to consider whether Jackson engaged in official or unofficial misconduct in violation of Grand County’s policies and procedures, as well as Utah Administrative Code.

He said that Jackson’s involvement in the board’s closed session points to a broader example of misconduct.

“To me, it’s not an isolated incident,” Baird said. “There’s a pattern of him acting this way and abusing his powers as the chairman of the Grand County Council.”

Jackson countered that Baird is “abusing” the media to advance his own agenda, noting that Baird is also behind a recall petition that seeks to remove Jackson from office.

“There will probably be something next week and the week after that,” Jackson said. “I just want it to be over.”

Jackson said he attends the CHCSSD’s meetings because he’s concerned about the future of the Canyonlands Care Center, which is recovering from financial challenges.

“For this, I’m going to be crucified and character assassinated and the whole nine yards,” he said. “It’s just an attack and an attempt to influence public opinion through the media.”

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