County Attorney, Sheriff candidates debate

By Kelsey Keener

CEDAR CITY–Candidates for Iron County Attorney and Iron County Sheriff had an opportunity to debate last Thursday at Cedar North Elementary.

Iron County Attorney candidates Scott Burns and Chad Dotson were present, as well as Iron County Sheriff candidates Lieutenant Del Schlosser, Sergeant David Evans, and Parowan Police Chief Ken Carpenter. The debate was organized and moderated by Traci Sullivan.

The first round of the debate consisted of questions that candidates submitted for themselves.

Schlosser was asked what separates him from the other candidates in the race for sheriff, and he cited his experience working within the Sheriff’s Department and with the department’s budget.

“I worked nearly facet of our department,” he said. “I will know and understand each one of the roles within the Sheriff’s Office. My experience does give me an edge above others, I don’t have to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t, and I know I can make decisions that will progress our department.”

Evans was asked to clarify his campaign slogan, which focuses on leadership and partnership. He said he has already established relationships with various agencies in Iron County and used those relationship effectively, but also thinks it’s important to share information with the public, so community members can make educated decisions.

“I think it’s really important that we share with you some of the struggles and the real difficult tasks we are involved with every day,” he said. “Community policing is a very important idea and it needs to be improved. And part of the way it needs to be improved is you need to be informed with the struggles that we’re really having. I just want to provide the information so you can make those informed decisions yourself.”

After asked how he would improve the Sheriff’s Office, Carpenter explained that he would run the office using five principals of excellence: integrity; positive, strong leadership; innovation; initiative; and courage. Additionally, he said he would initiate programs to get the Sheriff’s Department involved with more areas of Iron County, dedicate more time to proactive police work and provide training for current deputies and supervisors to be the most effective leaders they can be.

Dotson was asked about his support from local law enforcement and other lawyers, and attributed that support to his abilities as a prosecutor.

“I think it shows that I can maintain a balance between community safety and holding people accountable on the one hand, and on other the hand being fair and respectful in the process,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people who are supporting me, because again they have the confidence that I am fair, that I know the law, that I’ll give everybody a fair shake, I will not make prosecution personal.”

Burns was asked why he chose to run for Iron County Attorney, and he explained that while at a conference in St. George, he was asked to run by the Chief Deputy of the Utah Attorney General’s Office because of the perceived problems that currently exist within the Iron County Attorney’s office.

Candidates for both County Attorney and County Sheriff were asked whether or not they intended to work the minimum 20 hours per month required of those positions by state law. All candidates agreed that the job could be done properly in that amount of time and that they planned to work as long is takes to get the job done.

Sullivan asked County Attorney candidates twice if more cases should be taken to trial, as the County Attorney’s Office has a high right of plea bargaining. Dotson said that the number of trials is decreasing nationwide. He also said a prosecutor can’t force a defendant to exercise the right to a trial by jury.

“I love taking first degree felonies to trial, but again we can’t force anybody to exercise that right,” Dotson said.

Burns disagreed.

“The prosecutor does determine what cases go to trial and what doesn’t go to trial,” Burns said. “The prosecutor is the ringmaster.”

Sheriff candidate Carpenter was asked about his efforts to unify SWAT teams in Iron and neighboring counties, and explained that three teams have been brought together so far. He also elaborated on plans to hold weekly trainings for SWAT team members, and mandatory trainings for team development, and said he plans to continue working toward the goal of having a Tier 1 SWAT team.

Schlosser was asked about efforts to correct wage discrepancies within the Sheriff’s Department and what he plans to do as sheriff to solve this that he cannot do as lieutenant. Schlosser explained that part of the problem has been rectified, that a retention plan is also in place, and he will continue to fight those disparities as sheriff.

Evans responded by acknowledging current efforts being made and said he would continue those efforts as well. Carpenter said this kind of issue is a team effort and a struggle Iron County is experiencing that needs dealt with.

Dotson was questioned about his experience as an attorney and ability to serve as the county attorney.

“I think you need the right experience to be county attorney, I think you need to be a leader to be county attorney and I think that I have those things and I think I can bring positive change to the County Attorney’s Office,” Dotson said.

Evans was asked about his ability to lead the Sheriff’s Department although it has a larger budget and number of employees than he has previously managed. Evans cited his experience in the Cedar City Police Department and as Commander of the Iron-Garfield-Beaver Drug Task Force.

“I realize that the number is vastly different,” Evans said. “But I will continue to employ good budgetary discretion to the best things that help our community, help our sheriff’s office be as effective as possible.”

Iron County Sheriff candidates were also asked about their support of no-knock warrants. Candidates agreed that they support it when an officer’s life is in danger. Carpenter discussed the importance of balancing people’s rights with officer’s safety. Schlosser noted the importance of proper documentation and verification in the event that a no-knock warrant is executed. Evans mentioned the importance of good judgment when deciding whether a no-knock warrant is necessary.

Dotson was questioned about allegations of vindictiveness in the County Attorney’s Office and his decision to run after being trained by the people accused of that. Dotson said he decided to run against the incumbent because he thinks changes need to be made and that he does not make prosecutions personal.

Sullivan discussed different communities passing ordinances requiring citizens to turn in assault weapons or be fined or jailed, and asked sheriff candidates how they respond if such an ordinance were to be passed in Iron County.

All three candidates said they would not enforce it. Schlosser cited the Second Amendment, invited the audience to question what the actual problem is, guns or mental health, and said individuals need to be held accountable for their actions. Evans said he does not think that would pass in Iron County, but if it did he would not enforce it. Carpenter also mentioned the Second Amendment and the need to consider the media’s influence in gun control related topics.

When asked if they would support a Citizen’s Review Board, both County Attorney candidates said they would. Dotson said he is in favor of community involvement and welcomes questions and concerns; Burns said a lot more is needed from the County Attorney’s Office to engage and work with the public.

New legislation regarding low-level drug offences was also discussed, and all candidates agreed that is it very flawed. Issues with the Iron County Jail were also brought up, as well as the topic of medical marijuana.

Candidates were each allowed a closing statement. Carpenter mentioned his experience in the military and in law enforcement and relationships with multiple federal, state and local agencies.

“I can bring some needed change to the sheriff’s office and make it a better place for the deputies and make it a better place for the citizens as a whole,” Carpenter said.

Schlosser cited his experience and the necessity to plan and change as Iron County experiences growth.

“We have to be able to change and adapt to those changes,” he said. “That’s something I’m very willing to do. Let’s do what’s best for the county, what’s best for everyone.”

Evans asked the audience to do their research to determine who the best candidate for the job of sheriff is.

“I will sit here in front of you today and tell you that I am the most capable person to do that job,” Evans said.

Burns acknowledge that things have changed in Iron County.

“It’s not the same as it was 30 years ago, we’re growing, we have crime, we have people dying, we have real issues, and I’ll try that capital murder case … I’ll attend county commission,” he said “I will meet with the public, I will be the face of the county attorney’s office.”

Dotson closed by saying he thinks he can bring a new perspective to the County Attorney’s Office.

“Not only am I an experienced prosecutor with a large county caseload, I’ve worked on murder, traffic tickets and everything in between, but I bring a fresh perspective,” he said. “We need a clean slate and fresh perspective and I bring that to the County Attorney’s office.”

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