Gov. Cox’s election to head the Utah Department of Natural Resources has been in office since early July, although he has not yet been formally nominated

Nearly a month after Cox named Joel Ferry to head DNR, his nomination has yet to be sent to the Utah Senate

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Joel Ferry currently serves as Acting Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. Gov. Spencer Cox has yet to formally appoint Ferry for the job.

Gov. Spencer Cox announced that he will appoint Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City, to head the Utah Department of Natural Resources on June 24. Almost a month after that announcement, Cox’s office has yet to officially make the appointment, but Ferry already serves as the department’s acting director.

The governor’s office is required by law to send a letter to the Senate announcing appointments to cabinet-level positions. The Senate must wait 30 days before taking any action against the nominee so that it can be properly reviewed. The Senate must decide on the nomination within 90 days.

After a successful confirmation hearing, the Senate usually votes final on a nominee during its monthly interim sessions.

As of Friday morning, the letter announcing Ferry’s appointment had not been received by the Senate. The next transition day is scheduled for August 17, meaning it’s almost too late for lawmakers to take official action. Unless they receive the letter by the end of Monday, Ferry’s appointment will have to wait until the September interim period at the earliest.

Ferry has been acting director of DNR since early July. He replaces Brian Steed, who directs the Institute of Land, Sea and Air at Utah State University. According to Utah’s financial transparency website, Steed received nearly $240,000 in total compensation as an executive director of DNR in 2021.

Cox’s office told The Tribune they were investigating why Ferry’s appointment was delayed, but did not respond before publication.

Cox’s office’s failure to send a letter of appointment to the Senate seems unusual. On June 2, he appointed four members to the Utah Board of Higher Education. Confirmation hearings for these nominees are scheduled for August 12, just days before the August interim meetings.

Cox’s last Cabinet-level appointment was processed much faster than Ferry’s nomination. Cox elected Alan Fuller as the new CIO for the Utah Department of Technology Services on March 3, 2021. The full Senate confirmed Fuller for the job on April 14 of that year, just over a month later.

Ferry isn’t the only member of Cox’s cabinet in office who hasn’t been formally appointed to the post. Just two days before he appointed Ferry to head DNR, Cox appointed Darryle Rude to be the Utah Treasury Department Commissioner. The Utah Senate has not yet received his formal appointment, but he is listed as an interim commissioner on the DFI website.

The letters announcing Cox’s judge nominees are not experiencing the same delays as his cabinet elections. On the same day that Cox Ferry announced he would head DNR, he appointed Rick Westmoreland as judge for the 2nd Circuit Juvenile Court. A few days later, he announced that Jill Pohlman was his pick to fill a seat on the Utah Supreme Court. These confirmation hearings are scheduled for July 19 and 26.

Ferry has not resigned his seat in the legislature, despite being appointed to Cox’s cabinet, which appears to violate the separation of powers in the Utah constitution. Cox’s office says Ferry’s dual role doesn’t matter because he has given up all natural resource-related duties and receives no statutory compensation.

Ferry remains at the November election as the Republican candidate in House District 1, and the GOP cannot replace him with another candidate. Gov. Cox’s election to head the Utah Department of Natural Resources has been in office since early July, although he has not yet been formally nominated

Justin Scacco

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