In response to questions and complaints from citizens, the Carbon County Commission and County Attorney have launched an investigation of Sheriff James Cordova. The allegations are that the sheriff has been using county equipment improperly, spending county funds for personal use and that he has not been living in Carbon County enough to fulfill his duties as the main law enforcement officer.
"We are still investigating and we are trying to decide if any charges will be forthcoming," said Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate on Wednesday morning. "County sheriffs in Utah have broad powers and there is a lot that we have to look at. We are presently working with the Utah State Attorney General's office to see what should be done."
Cordova, who has served as sheriff since 1999, did not file to run for the office again this year.
All three county commissioners said Wednesday they started getting calls from concerned citizens about six weeks ago concerning Cordova's status. People reported a number of things they allegedly had seen and some asked about whether he was still living in Carbon County. That is when the commissioners went to Strate with what they had heard.
Strate said he considered what had been reported and put his investigator, Willie Draughon on the situation. The office also involved at least one other local law enforcement agency to help with the investigation.
Cordova and his wife purchased a house in the St. George area in December and in mid-February put their house in Carbon County up for sale. After that, Cordova allegedly began moving household items from Carbon to Washington county using his county vehicle and a trailer that is part of the Carbon County Search and Rescue's equipment. Draughon began to follow Cordova's movements and at one point, along with some Washington County law enforcement officials, pulled Cordova over and talked to him about the situation.
"He was very cooperative and showed them the trailer and admitted that he had been hauling things to Washington county," said Strate. "But he also said that he had done nothing wrong. He said he had a job to do and that he needed his vehicle in case he needed to respond to a problem in Carbon County."
Draughon seized both the vehicle and the trailer. Both have been returned to Carbon County and are presently in storage.
Strate also said that there is the possibility that a county credit card was used to pay for fuel for the vehicle along the route to St. George, as well as in Carbon County. He said that it appeared the amount allegedly spent by Cordova was over $2,100.
Strate says that if charges are brought, this kind of a case would have to be prosecuted by an attorney from outside his office and outside the county.
Calls from the Sun Advocate to Cordova's cell phone and to his attorney were made this week so he could comment on the situation, but the calls were not returned as of press time.