uncertainty over executive session, county attorney
hopefuls tout experience
February 9, 2009 | LOGAN -- When the dust settles after
the Cache County Council's regular meeting Tuesday evening,
one pressing question will be answered others might
As two candidates vie for the council's appointment
to the office of county attorney, the topic of just
how that process will happen has taken over much of
the discussion surrounding the race. At its Jan. 27
meeting, the council announced its intention to hold
discussion of the two candidates during a closed executive
session at its Feb. 7 meeting. That decision has ruffled
more than a few feathers with local and state media
The Herald Journal, KVNU radio and The Salt
Lake Tribune jointly wrote an open letter to the
council earlier this week, asking the council to either
discuss the matter openly or to allow media to cover
the executive session.
State law allows government bodies to discuss certain
issues behind closed doors, including the "character,
professional competence, or physical or mental health
of an individual." Council chairman H. Craig Petersen
wrote in an e-mail response to (and subsequently published
in part by) The Herald Journal that precedent
has been set in similar circumstances to hold such discussions
in executive session.
Under the council's bylaws, a two-thirds majority
vote is needed to open an executive session a vote
which some members of the media hope will fall short.
Tyler Riggs, former city editor of The Herald Journal
and current host of KVNU's "For the People" program,
wrote in a letter to the editor of the paper, "With
the position of county attorney being an elected position
carrying great power and responsibility, the voting
public of this community are owed the privilege of knowing
the rationale behind the eventual appointment."
Interim County Attorney James Swink, who would normally
advise the council on such a matter, has opted to refer
the matter to a specialist within the Utah Attorney
General's office rather than discussing the matter which
directly involves his race. "I've stayed out of that
because of my candidacy," Swink said.
Both Swink and his opponent, Joe Chambers, who received
the official recommendation of the Cache County Republican
Central Committee Wednesday night, are opting to focus
on their qualifications for the job.
Despite narrowly losing the central committee recommendation
by a vote of 90-88, Swink said he is pleased with the
"I think it shows two things: one, in three weeks
I was able to garner a great deal of support and not
having had any contact with these delegates before,
it was a positive thing; and two, I'm confident I can
run a general campaign, either in the primary or in
a general election and fare well," he said. "Of course
you would like to have the majority, but it's really
a 50 percent split."
Chambers, on the other hand, said the close proximity
of the vote won't ultimately nullify or weaken the central
committee's decision to recommend him to the council.
"I think my opponent would love it to, but I don't
think it will," Chambers said. "There has to be a winner
and there has to be a loser. There are close races,
but had that been the final vote, I'd still have the
office and he wouldn't, so I don't know how you can
Chambers said his 29 years of experience both in and
out of government qualifies him for the job over his
competitor, who has barely half that time under his
belt. In addition to his private practice, Chambers
served as Hyde Park city attorney from 1997 until 2004,
and as Rich county deputy attorney twice, from 1982
to 1998 and currently since 2002.
Chambers graduated from Weber State College in 1977
with a bachelor's degree in accounting. He earned his
law degree in 1979 from Brigham Young University, and
in 1980 earned a post-doctoral master of law degree
from New York University.
Swink said his own record of public service has encompassed
his entire career, including his time in law school
at BYU. During his studies, he worked for Springville
city and did research for an area law firm. After law
school, he clerked for a judge in Idaho, researching
both civil and criminal cases. He also worked for a
time as a prosecutor in Weber county.
As a 1993 graduate of Utah State University in economics,
Swink jumped on an opportunity to return to Cache county
in 1999 to serve as deputy county attorney, the position
he currently holds.
Swink said having only three weeks into the campaign,
he feels fortunate to have as much support as he does,
adding that he hopes to continue serving the people
of the county as county attorney.
"I count it a great privilege, and I also count it
as a great responsibility," he said.
Chambers said there are a multitude of issues the
county attorney must face beyond criminal prosecution,
and that his real-world experience in both the government
and private sectors makes him the best candidate for
the job. He likened those problems to a Rubik's Cube,
as each has many different ways to be solved.
"Those problems require solutions," he said. "If you
have been employed all your life as a government deputy
county attorney and haven't been exposed to other ways
of looking at the cube, just turning it and looking
at it, you're always coming at it from one approach.
You're going to put the same old solutions to it."