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Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy resigns suddenly amid funding concerns

Posted at 11:19 AM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 20:55:30-04

PROVO, Utah — Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy abruptly resigned Tuesday morning during a Utah County Commission meeting.

Sheriff Tracy told commissioners they had repeatedly failed to respond to emails about funding concerns within the sheriff's office. He said they're operating $800,000 in the red because of an inmate's medical needs. The doctor hasn't been paid and he said the sheriff's office has been sent to collections.

"I've been requesting money, or at least advice, from the commissioner on how to proceed over the last couple months with numerous emails and haven't received anything back," Tracy said at the meeting. "Having no information back from the commission, then, I take that also as a vote of no confidence. At this point in time, I'm also resigning as Sheriff, effective August 1st."

Watch the sheriff's resignation here:

Tracy said he would be forced to reduce the Utah County Sheriff's Office force by 15-20 positions and release 128 inmates from the Utah County Jail.

"We're trying to find some of those funds through the budgetary process and work with some of our state people," Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie told him.

But Tracy said the matter needs immediate attention.

"We're being sent to collections, commissioner," Tracy said. "The time to act is now. I need to find that money, and I will move forward with the internal solution to that today."

After resigning, Sheriff Tracy declined interview requests from FOX 13.

Commissioners Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie said, however, that the sheriff did have money he could dip into to avoid layoffs or inmate releases. They also vowed to re-open the public budget process to ensure money was available.

"I don’t know why it’s got to this point. I know we’re working through the struggles and challenges of this, but to take it into the hyper-emotional status of what it is, it was totally new to me. It was a little disheartening," Lee told FOX 13.

The commissioners said a single inmate has racked up roughly $800,000 in medical bills since being incarcerated at the Utah County Jail. Typically, the county budgets about $400,000 a year for all inmates' medical expenses.

"We have to take care of the inmates that are there and we fully realize and recognize that, and this one inmate is getting the primo care, that most of the citizens of this county who are here legally don’t even get," Lee said, referring to the inmate's undocumented status.

The sheriff's office and the commissioners refused to release the inmate's name, citing medical privacy laws.

The commissioners showed FOX 13 a budget sheet indicating the sheriff could dip into a fund with roughly $454,000 to provide some cover. However, the commissioners would have to re-open their budget to fill the remaining deficit.

"That can be transferred around to pay our bills until we can get that budget open and we can work through the budgetary process," Ivie said.

"And he agreed to that, after our meeting," Lee added.

Sheriff Tracy has had a long and decorated career in law enforcement in Utah. He was slated to retire at the end of this year. The Utah County GOP would pick his replacement until the election.

The commissioners said the respected whatever the sheriff chose to do.

"That’s the sheriff’s decision. I greatly appreciate him. He’s been a phenomenal sheriff," Ivie said. "And he does incredible work for this county in keeping us safe."

Added Lee: "I would just hope it would not be under circumstances like this."