This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As Gov. Gary Herbert announced a comprehensive review of Utah's probation and parole system and promised to fire any employees "derelict in their duties," two top officials from the state division quit their jobs Thursday.
Geri Miller-Fox, director of Adult Probation and Parole, and Wendy Horlacher, administrator for the division's Region 3 in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties, submitted their resignations. James Hudspeth, director of the Department of Corrections' Law Enforcement Bureau, will serve as the division's interim director.
Parolee Cory Lee Henderson had absconded from a halfway house before he shot and killed Unified Police Department Officer Doug Barney in January. On Tuesday, another parolee who disappeared from the same halfway house allegedly stole a car and rammed a police cruiser before escaping on foot. And in a separate January incident, a parolee released after a misstep by parole officials was shot in a confrontation with police.
In Henderson's case, the Board of Pardons did not have accurate information about new charges against him when the board was considering his parole in November.
"We know that errors have occurred. We need to find out what has caused those, whether it's been ignorance or intentional, and these mistakes by employees are inexcusable," Herbert said during his monthly KUED news conference Thursday. "If we find individual employees who are derelict in their duties they will face discipline, up to and including their termination."
Herbert said Kristen Cox, the governor's management and budget director, will lead the internal audit to review the way local law enforcement, the courts, Adult Probation and Parole and the Board of Pardons share information.
He said he was also initiating a full-scale review of the procedures in place at Fortitude Treatment Center, the halfway house that Henderson walked away from in December. Henderson was killed in a firefight with officers after shooting Barney. Thomas Samuel Burnham, 29, disappeared from Fortitude last month, before his alleged crash and escape from pursuing officers Tuesday.
The Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that it had initiated a review of all of the halfway houses in the prison system. Herbert's audit will be broader and cover the way data is shared between state and local agencies, including how to ensure it is entered into state databases in a timely manner, and other aspects of the pardons and parole system.
Palm Samiuel Lautaimi, the parolee shot by police in Salt Lake City on Jan. 31, had been arrested two weeks earlier for allegedly possessing a firearm and drugs. He could have been returned to prison at that point, but no one from Adult Probation and Parole picked him up from jail over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. He was released three days later because no charges had been filed.
After Thursday's resignations, Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook assigned Hudspeth as the division's director and Dan Blanchard, deputy director for AP&P, as interim administrator for the division's Region 3. In a news release, Corrections said it is taking these steps and others to improve its management of offenders:
• Twenty-nine people residing at community correctional centers were or are in the process of being returned to jail or the Utah State Prison for misconduct; some tested positive for drug use. One individual's status is under review. Four people arrested on fugitive warrants were jailed or returned to prison.
• At the centers, admission of new residents is on hold, the appropriateness of current residents' placements there is being reviewed, the details of their employment are being verified, and supervision has increased for example, residents are being escorted to medical appointments.
• A 10-member Fugitive Response Team is working with local law enforcement to apprehend high priority walkaways and fugitives.
There are about 260 fugitive felons who are wanted for misconduct that includes violating parole conditions or failing to appear at court dates.
Herbert said it is too early for the recent incidents to cast doubt or call into question the state's efforts to reform the justice system to focus more on rehabilitating inmates with drug addiction or mental health issues, as opposed to locking them up. The law enacting the justice system reform took effect last Oct. 1.
"The act we had which was designed remember, for nonviolent offenders is designed to help people transition from behind bars back into society so they will not reoffend," Herbert said. "I don't think there's any reason to change the policy yet, because we don't know."
According to the Department of Corrections website, Miller-Fox began her career with the agency as a correctional officer and served in a variety of management positions, including as a community correctional center director. She became deputy director of AP&P in 2007 and director in 2013. Horlacher has been with Corrections since 1992, according to her LinkedIn profile.
More from governor's news conference
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert touched on other topics during his Thursday news conference at KUED, including:
• Herbert said the state should "seriously" consider another bid to host the Winter Olympics a move that is proposed in a resolution now pending before the Utah Legislature.
"We do have the ability. We've proven to be very successful. We are one of the few, if not the only Winter Olympics, to make money," he said. "The venues are in place. … We are in fact ready, willing and able to do it."
• The governor said he did not believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' statement opposing a medical marijuana bill before the Legislature would have much impact on the potential for passing the bill. Herbert said that the bill failed to pass last year, before the state's predominant religion had taken a public position on legalization, so it likely wouldn't lead to the failure of the measure.
• He is still weighing whether to commit the state to a lawsuit demanding the federal government turn over public lands within Utah's borders.