The San Juan County officeholder who investigated a Navajo candidate’s residency would possibly now come below investigation himself after a federal judge issued a written ruling past due Thursday, concluding County Clerk John David Nielson falsified an authentic report to illegally kick the Democratic place of job seeker off November’s ballot.
Acting on an unsubstantiated grievance filed through a Republican candidate, Nielson had decided County Commission hopeful Willie Grayeyes was once now not eligible to vote in San Juan County as a result of he allegedly lived in Arizona.
Virtually no facet of Nielson’s dealing with of the topic was once criminal or inside of the scope of his function as the county’s best election authentic, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer wrote in concluding the county most likely violated the rights of Grayeyes, a outstanding proponent of the arguable Bears Ears National Monument.
“Defendant Nielson ceased to be a neutral actor and blended the roles of investigator and prosecutor, depriving Plaintiff Grayeyes of due procedure. Aside from soliciting a brand new voter registration problem from [candidate Wendy] Black, Defendant Nielson additionally initiated an outdoor investigation [by sheriff’s deputies] of Plaintiff Grayeyes’s place of dwelling,” he wrote in the 19-page ruling. “This action is not permitted or authorized by statute.”
Nielson declined to touch upon the ruling, however the county’s courtroom filings defended his oversight of the inquiry into Grayeyes’ residency, whilst acknowledging he backdated Black’s authentic problem to Grayeyes’ candidacy. In his personal filings, Nielson famous he was once married to a Navajo girl for 15 years and their youngsters establish as Navajo.
“I love my family and have seen firsthand how racial prejudice and animus has affected them,” he wrote in a declaration, suggesting his motion was once according to his figuring out of the legislation, now not on bias in opposition to Grayeyes’ Navajo roots.
In a statement to FOX 13 on Thursday, San Juan County said the authentic grievance about Grayeyes was once backdated to compare the authentic grievance.
“While Mr. Nielson and the County recognize that this was a serious lapse in judgment, it had no impact on the outcome of the residency challenge,” Blake Hamilton, an legal professional for the county, wrote in a commentary.
“Mr. Nielson made up our minds the problem according to the proof ahead of him, together with the challenger’s commentary, the Sheriff’s Deputy’s investigation, and proof from Mr. Grayeyes,” FOX 13 reported, “and according to his figuring out of what the state statutes required, now not according to the date of the shape or Mr. Grayeyes’ race, ethnicity, or political affairs.”
Yet county officers went additional than revoking Grayeyes’ candidacy and voter eligibility. County Attorney Kendall Laws, the son of the candidate who sooner or later gained the Republican nomination for the fee seat Grayeyes is looking for, referred the topic to an outdoor prosecutor, Troy Rawlings of Davis County, to display for conceivable election fraud fees. Rawlings declined to pursue a case in opposition to Grayeyes.
Under the court-ordered redistricting, Lyman’s district is now majority Navajo, who generally tend to associate with the Democrats. Grayeyes will face Republican Kelly Laws in what guarantees to be amongst Utah’s maximum intently watched races this November. If Grayeyes wins, the San Juan County Commission may opposite its place on then-President Barack Obama’s Bears Ears monument designation from sour opposition to heat embody.
The county is recently in quest of to interfere in court cases difficult President Donald Trump’s order enormously lowering the dimension of the previously 1.35 million-acre monument. Long envious of federal regulate of the county’s landscapes, officers wish to make sure Trump’s motion sticks.
Nuffer’s ruling does now not deal with Grayeyes’ exact residency, however focussed solely on whether or not the county violated due procedure and state elections regulations whilst processing a terse, detail-free grievance submitted through Wendy Black, the candidate Kelly Laws later beat at the Republican conference.
The dispute over Grayeyes’ position of place of dwelling started March 20, when Black emailed Nielson her suspicions that the Navajo Democrat lived out of doors the county. That day she submitted a signed commentary in quest of to problem his candidacy.
Nearly a month later, Nielson emailed Black a request to fill out a required problem shape, which she reluctantly agreed to do.
“I will do this, but I have to tell you it kind of pisses me off after the way Kelly Laws ran the [April 5] caucus and convention. I don’t want to do anything to help ‘him’ but I will for the county,” she wrote again. “I don’t think Kelly will be beneficial in the County Commission (we already have someone exactly like him, done nothing, promoting himself, rancherish guy) but I REALLY don’t think Willie should be there.”
Her e-mail seems to reference fee Chairman Bruce Adams, a Monticello rancher who is anticipated to coast to re-election.
Her backdated grievance asserts this about about Grayeyes’ indexed San Juan place of dwelling at Paiute Mesa: “It is not livable, windows boarded up. Roof dilapidated. No tracks going into home for years.”
Not simplest is such an statement insufficient to revoke Grayeyes’ candidacy, courtroom paperwork say, however there’s no proof Black had even been to Grayeyes’ house, situated in a far off space close to the Arizona line on the Navajo Reservation’s Navajo Mountain bankruptcy lands.
This shape is the one Nielson recognizes backdating to March 20 — regardless of his signature below penalty of perjury indicating it was once produced April 16.
“I realized that that was probably not what I should have done,” Nielson testified at his deposition, “but the thought in my head was that the original challenge was done on March 20th, and so that’s what we were making this, to March 20th.”
However, through the time this report was once in reality produced, the sheriff’s investigation into Grayeyes’ place of dwelling was once entire and the cut-off date for difficult a candidate’s eligibility had handed, at the side of Nielson’s cut-off date for rendering a choice, which he issued May nine.
Nielson’s movements drew condemnation from the tribal officers and others calling for his resignation and raised the specter of additional scrutiny since Nuffer’s ruling suggests conceivable perjury.
“If there’s something criminal, we’ll likely send it over to the attorney general’s office to investigate,” Justin Lee, director of elections for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, instructed Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke previous this week.
On Friday, the Utah legal professional normal’s place of job didn’t go back a telephone name in quest of remark.
Meanwhile, the previous federal courtroom order that redrew what it stated have been discriminatory political districts inside of San Juan County and ordered the particular election is on enchantment to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Jesse Trentadue, out of doors suggest for the county, said in a temporary filed Thursday that it’s most likely too past due to halt the upcoming election.
“By the time this case is heard by this Court and an opinion is issued, the special elections will have taken place,” the transient stated.
“There will be no remedy” for the elected officers whose phrases have been reduce quick and for electorate who anticipated illustration to proceed as ahead of, the county transient persisted. “And there will be no remedy for the County, which will have lost leadership and institutional memory.”
Still, the county requested the appeals courtroom to overturn the decrease courtroom ruling on redistricting and to revive the earlier balloting districts. It additionally asked a cautious research of the importance of particular elections — and when they’re suitable — to assist information long term circumstances.
News editor Dan Harrie contributed to this tale.