Interesting story plastered atop the front page of this morning's Standard-Examiner hard-copy edition, bearing the bold-faced headline "Weber sheriff violated act." Unlike the Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner situation however, Sheriff Terry Thompson's case will apparently have will no negative consequences, as is briefly set forth in this morning story's lead paragraph:
OGDEN -- The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has determined that Terry Thompson violated the Hatch Act in his successful 2010 bid for Weber County Sheriff, but the office won't take action against him.Read Mr. Schwebke's full Standard-Examiner writeup here:
We're troubled by the nature of the headline itself. Although the Office of Special Counsel has been involved in this matter since at least as early as May of last year, that federal agency, which is charged with the civil prosecution of Hatch Act violations, appears to have taken no formal action in this matter, aside from the issuance of the "warning letter" which is mentioned in this morning's Scott Schwebke story. Since this matter has never been formally adjudicated, the headline states as fact something which ought to have been characterized as a mere allegation. The opinion of the Office of Special Council that Sheriff Thompson violated the Hatch Act is no more than that office's legal opinion, an opinion which carries no more weight than Sheriff Thompson's own opinion that he did not violate the Act. So in our view, it's disappointing that the copy editor who drafted the headline wasn't more careful with that most important distinction.
Although we're delighted to learn that the Office of Special Counsel has exercised sound prosecutorial discretion and declined to take any further action in re this matter, we're nevertheless keeping our fingers crossed that the Standard will be more cautious in its technical draftsmanship and take steps to avoid in the future the kind of factually inaccurate, and reputationally damaging headlines such as the one appearing above this morning's story.
Referring back to our original assumption that Defendant Stewert will at some point be represented on the taxpayers' dime by Weber County Public Defenders? Yes. News reports indicate Stewart has a small equity in his residential property which he purchsed in the nineties. No, that small equity will not for long support a vigorous defense in this complex case, which involves multiple purported victims, and will require massive investigative effort and discovery. Whatever property equity Stewart may have to contribute to his own defense will be rapidly, blown, quickly.
Like it or not, Gentle Weber County taxpayers, ultimately, even though prosecution and defense counsel will sit at tables on opposite sides of the courtroom as this matter progresses, the massive expense of this whole trial will be borne by the folks who'll ultimately pick up the tab for this legal extravaganza... the taxpayers of Weber County, that's who.