The state audit alleges that former Cache County prosecutors abused public resources and entered into subcontracts without the county’s knowledge

A state audit alleges that two former members of the Cache County Attorney’s Office misappropriated public resources for personal gain and entered into contracts to prosecute cases in other jurisdictions without Cache County’s knowledge or consent. The audit also claims that the two used Cache County’s resources to run the other jobs.

The Cache County administration indicated in a news release Thursday that the alleged conduct may have been a felony, and said prosecutors “would not have any further comment at this time due to a pending criminal investigation.” The release said the county was fully compliant with the investigation, and the county said it has already taken steps to strengthen oversight of all elected officials and employees.

Cache County said it will ask the Utah Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute possible criminal acts by the two former prosecutors. In an email, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the agency is aware of the review and is awaiting a referral to determine next steps.

private contracts

The state’s coroner’s office began investigating after receiving a complaint that the former district attorney’s office found it had a private contract to prosecute cases in nearby Rich County.

In the past, Cache prosecutors have offered their services to towns in the county — such as Logan, Hyrum and Nibley — and nearby Rich County. These agreements have been reviewed and approved by the respective district councils. Cache and Rich agreed to a contract under which Cache prosecutors would handle cases in the rural county from 2017 to 2019. The audit states that three members of Cache County Council were aware of this contract.

However, during a November 2018 Rich County commission meeting, the Rich County attorney told the commission that he and the then-elected Cache County attorney “wanted to remove Cache County from their agreement,” according to the audit.

In late 2018, the contract between the two counties was terminated, the audit said, and in March of the following year, the Cache County Attorney signed a contract to serve as Rich County’s assistant chief crime attorney — effectively the chief attorney handling criminal cases tracked. The new contract said the cache attorney would be paid $3,000 a month plus mileage.

As part of the contract, Cache’s attorney “regularly engaged the services” of Cache’s boss’s criminal deputy and paid the deputy to work on cases in Rich, the audit said.

The audit says Cache County Council members and the former county executive were unaware of the private contract between the county attorney and Rich County. The audit also alleges that the district attorney had a private contract with Mendon City while employed as Cache County Attorney, and the deputy had a private contract with Nibley from 2015 to 2019 while employed by Cache.

The Chief of Criminal Investigation resigned from the Cache County Procuratorate when the State Examiner’s Office launched an investigation, the audit said.

Investigators allege that Cache associates worked on cases in Rich County and Mendon, in addition to Cache’s case management software allegedly used on over 300 Rich cases. The chief crime deputy allegedly traveled to Rich County as a driver or passenger in a Cache County vehicle and used his Cache County computer and email to work Rich cases.

The audit also says a federal grant paid part of Cache County’s salaries for both prosecutors when they worked cases in Rich instead.

State investigators wrote that it was “probable” that the former district attorney “misappropriated cached resources to fulfill these private contracts.”

Investigators appeared to have spoken to the two, as the audit says, they “claim that the use of public funds for private prosecution contracts is ahead of them” before noting that others in the Cache County DA’s office disagreed.

The audit raises multiple allegations of impropriety against the two attorneys, including misuse of public resources and improper access to case information. The audit also says the two failed to disclose their side hustle to the county. The two apparently told investigators, “Their private contracts were known and even authorized within Cache.”

However, the audit says, “Given the lack of documented disclosures, statements to the contrary by cache officials, and identified incidents … it seems more likely that her outside employment was not known.”

Included in the review was Cache County’s response to the allegations. The district said no current employees of the Cache County Attorney’s Office have or have had other prosecutorial contracts, nor do current employees use Cache resources for part-time jobs. The county added that an annual ethics training course for all employees was launched earlier this year.

“Two Sides of a Story”

Although he is not credited by name in the audit — except in a 2015-2022 timeline detailing who served as district attorney — James Swink, who was elected at the time of the alleged impropriety, was Cache County’s attorney general, who died in 2021 resigned from the job of district attorney with time remaining for his elected term.

Swink told The Salt Lake Tribune he retired from his job after 13 years in public service to return to where he started his career — the Weber County Attorney’s Office. Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said Thursday that Swink is employed in his office.

In a statement to The Tribune, Swink said: “There are always two sides to a story and additional facts and information available that provide the full picture.

“The audit, released by the Utah State Auditor, makes several recommendations for the county to improve its employee, grant and outside work policies. He refers to a “possible misuse” of public resources, but does not refer to available facts and information that refute this allegation and other allegations in the report.”

The Cache County Attorney’s Office said in a news release that they had “no reason to believe criminal prosecutions were prejudiced by the alleged misconduct documented in the state auditor’s report.”

“The Cache County Attorney’s Office recognizes that public confidence in the criminal justice system can be severely damaged when those charged with enforcing the law allegedly use their positions to enrich themselves,” he said the office in a press release. The office said it would not comment further “due to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Justin Scaccy

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