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Carbon County leaders are wary that their sheriff might have started his planned retirement early.
County commissioners voted Wednesday night to have the county attorney continue investigating whether Sheriff James Cordova still lives where he's sworn to serve and protect. County leaders suspect that he might have already moved in to his new home in St. George, seemingly beginning retirement before his term ends Dec. 31.
Such a move would breach the requirement that elected officials live in their jurisdictions and would negate his right to hold the office.
Cordova has only shown up to the office 26 days this year and several witnesses have seen him moving furniture out of his Price home, said deputy county attorney Christian Bryner.
"Our question is, 'Sheriff, do you really live here? Because it sure doesn't seem like you're working here,' " Bryner said Thursday. "… He's done a good job, he's been a good sheriff. We're all just kind of baffled that he decided to [move early]."
But the sheriff's attorney, Rick Golden, called the investigation a waste of taxpayer money.
The accusation that Cordova's been absent from work is "classic hearsay" and has nothing to do with where he lives, Golden said. He pointed out that Cordova is registered to vote in Carbon County and has a place to live in the area even if the sale on his Price home closes before December.
"He has plans to move on with his life," Golden said. "This is just crazy to me, this idea that he is not a resident. He gets his mail there, his kids have all gone to school there, there's a laundry list of factors."
The county attorney's office has no timetable for turning that investigation, but Bryner inferred from the Wednesday meeting that the commissioners would like it done "as soon as possible."
Bryner has heard conflicting information about whether removing Cordova from office would put any retirement plan in jeopardy. As far as Golden knows, the removal would not.
Cordova has held the office since 1999. If ousted, the Carbon County Democratic Party would appoint his replacement.
Last spring, citizens started calling county officials, prompting an investigation into whether Cordova used county equipment and a county credit card in his move to St. George, Commissioner Jae Potter said in May.
Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate has said that Cordova allegedly spent about $2,100 on the credit card to buy gas for a county-owned pickup truck. The findings from that investigation have been turned over to the Utah Attorney General's Office.