SANPETE COUNTY, Utah — After listening to nearly an hour of public comment on Thursday, the Moroni City Council voted against the idea of contracting its police services to the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office.
The city's police department has not been staffed since February, when Mayor Paul Bailey terminated Chief Bob Hill’s employment.
FOX 13 News was the first to discover Hill's firing was due to an excessive use of force investigation. Hill said he believed the firing was actually retaliation for writing the mayor’s son a ticket.
Hill was the police department’s only employee.
- FOX 13 Investigates: Moroni City police chief believes he was fired for writing mayor’s son a ticket, not use of force
Members of the council remarked that Thursday's meeting was one of the most widely-attended and passionate meetings they've seen since taking office.
Many of the public commenters spoke in support of the chief and the positive impact they felt he made on the community. Some asked for Hill to be reinstated. Some asked for Bailey to resign. Others said they hoped the Sanpete County Sheriff's Office would provide a level of training and accountability that they felt was missing within city government.
The council skirted the topic of Hill’s termination, although some thanked him for his service to the city.
A motion by Councilmember Jenifer Lamb to enter a contract with the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office failed 3-2.
Councilmember Bevan Wulfenstein was the only representative to vote alongside Lamb.
Councilmembers Thayne "Fred" Atkinson, Brad Aldridge, and Craig Draper voted against the motion.
Bailey, who also serves as a deputy with the Sanpete County Sheriff's Office, voiced his support for the contract but did not have a vote.
"Take the pressure off me," Bailey said. "The mayor, by law, is over the police department."
"Why aren't we getting rid of you?" someone yelled from the crowd.
Sanpete County Sheriff Jared Buchanan said he did not have a preference as to the city's decision.
“My main concern is making sure Moroni gets proper policing,” Buchanan said. “Whether that’s its own department, us, or a combined police force with another city... I just want Moroni to have good law enforcement services."
Because of the city’s growth, each member of the Moroni City Council stated they felt the city would likely need more than just one officer to patrol the city - which could require an increase in taxes if the Moroni City Police Department is reestablished.
“We need two officers,” Draper said. “This is a very very important issue, and we need input from everybody - which has been great tonight.”
“The cost has to come from somewhere,” Aldridge said. “If that’s a priority for you, we need to come up with a way to pay for that.”
It’s unclear whether the city will now look to hire additional officers to staff the Moroni City Police Department. The city could also choose to enter a police partnership with a nearby city, such as Mt. Pleasant or Fountain Green.