This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Salt Lake County Republican Party asked the federal Office of Special Counsel and the county district attorney's office on Friday to investigate alleged campaign violations by Democratic Sheriff Jim Winder.
Chairman Dale Ash said the party's executive committee decided Thursday night to pursue formal complaints against the sheriff for using an armored vehicle on loan to the Unified Police Department at an October 2013 fundraising event in Grantsville.
"Good," Winder responded Friday afternoon. "Then we'll get a review of this, which we're confident will exonerate us."
Ash said the federal Hatch Act prohibits an office holder from using subordinates, directly or not, in political campaigns and fundraising efforts. The sheriff did that, the GOP officials concluded, when UPD officers assisted in operating a BearCat armored vehicle owned by Michael Drury of Big Shot Ranch, a self-described "corporate firearms country club," as part of a Winder fundraiser at the ranch.
"The people of Salt Lake County need to know if there was an infraction or not," Ash said. "I don't care what party you're in, you shouldn't be coercing employees to work on your campaign."
Winder's campaign manager Jackie Biskupski said the agreement in which Drury lent his BearCat to the UPD also allows him to use the vehicle for a number of hours each month.
The agreement specified, she added, "that two officers who know how to operate it would be available to Drury for those hours. The agreement lays out no restrictions on how [Drury] can use it because it's his vehicle."
Added Winder: "The executive committee of the county Republican Party is just that a political entity engaging in political activity. I think the public sees through this."
Drury, who informed the UPD on Monday that it no longer could use his BearCat, later told The Salt Lake Tribune he blamed the Republican candidate for sheriff, Jake Petersen, for creating a problem where none existed.
Petersen is a UPD lieutenant over the SWAT personnel who operated the armored vehicle during the fundraiser. He said previously an investigation is needed to bolster public confidence in law-enforcement. "This needs to be pulled out of this environment and looked at by independent investigators based on facts."