Publisher’s Perspective: Glad to live in a state where democracy is both a value and a practice

By Suzanne Dean




I’m often reminded of how glad I am to live in Utah.

I was reminded again when I attended a meeting of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago.

Dubose Porter, a publisher who owns nine newspaper in Georgia talked to the group about voter suppression in Georgia.

Granted, the publisher is chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party and a former Democratic legislator. But his descriptions were graphic. And they are backed up by a half dozen lawsuits, most of which resulted in decisions that went against the secretary of state. And his observations are corroborated by independent statistical analyses and first-hand reports.

In 2018, Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state, ran against Stacy Abrams, an attorney, a long-time state legislator, an African-American and a Democrat.

As an aside, Porter told us Abrams is one of the most brilliant people he’s ever met. He said Abrams knew the state budget almost down to the dollar. If anybody in the Legislature had a question about state finance, Porter told the person, “Why don’t you ask Stacey?”

Abrams is also widely regarded as a political genius. She believes in her heart that if people who don’t vote understood how much power they could wield if they did vote, they would register and they would vote.

Nearly a decade ago, she started organizations to get African-Americans, other minorities and low-income residents of Georgia to register to vote. In some leaked audio of a talk at a Republican breakfast in a county outside Atlanta, Kemp said, “…You know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”

Then Kemp set out to make sure that didn’t happen.

For starters, even though he was a candidate himself, and lawsuits were flying challenging the way elections are run, he refused to step away from administration of the election and permit his deputies to take over.

In 2017 and 2018, his office purged 750,000 voters from the roll for failing to vote in as little as one election.

Greg Palast, an investigative reporter for the Guardian, a British newspaper that has a U.S. edition and U.S. news website, started looking into the voters on the purged list one by one, and conducting some statistical analysis.

He estimated that 200,000 of the purges were legitimate—the voter had died or moved out of the district. But in 340,000 cases, the voter was still at the same address as the last time he or she had voted.

The effect of the program was to disproportionately remove African-American and low-income voters who don’t vote as regularly as whites. Needless to say, a big majority of the voters who were purged were Democrats.

When new voter registrations were submitted, Kemp, and election officials around the state followed something called the “exact-match” rule. If the name the voter wrote on his or her registration application was not an identical match with the name as recorded on his or her driver’s license or social security card, the registration was put in “pending” status.

I know how easy it is for your name to be wrong on a government record. A few years ago, the Social Security Administration told me it had my name as Suzanne D. Dean. I don’t have a middle name, and I’ve never written my name with a middle initial. If I’d been in Georgia, that would have thrown me off the voting rolls.

The exact-match rule assigned 53,000 voters to “pending” status, which meant they were not registered.

If the voters who flunked the exact-match test showed up at the polls, the only way they could vote was by provisional ballot. Yet Palast, the Guardian reporter, found “massive numbers” of provisional ballots were not accepted for inclusion in final tallies.

Then there were the malfunctioning voting machines in several counties. According to Porter, the publisher who spoke to the weekly newspaper editors, the machines had no paper backup as a record of votes. In fact, he said, it was later shown that when someone voted for one candidate, the machine recorded a vote for the candidate of the other party.

And irony of ironies, Kemp got caught in his own trap. Even as he declared that “it is easy to vote and hard to cheat” in Georgia, when he went to his own polling place, his voting card came up as “invalid.”

Kemp defeated Abrams in one of the closest elections in contemporary Georgia history. In a race in which more than 4 million votes were cast, Kemp won by 55,000. Palast, the investigative reporter, said the voter suppression tactics clearly could have spelled the difference.

Contrast that with how things work in Utah. According to Sandy Neill, Sanpete County clerk, if you miss two general elections, your name is moved to “inactive status,” and the clerk does not mail you a ballot.

Before moving you to inactive status, the clerk sends a notice asking you to contact her office and verify your address. If you call in, you go back to active status whether you vote or not.

Even if you don’t respond to the notice, if you call to complain about not getting a ballot, you’re still registered. If there’s time, the clerk will mail out a ballot. Or you can vote in person at the clerk’s office.

If Neill mails a ballot, and it comes back “undeliverable,” the clerk’s office “does everything possible” to find you and get you registered in the correct district, Neill says. That can include contacting your family members, calling you on the phone or emailing you if you’ve provided an email address on your registration form.

If you fail to vote in four general elections, and fail to respond to notices, you are moved to “holding” status. That means you have to reregister in order to vote.

If you show up at the clerk’s office to vote after the registration deadline, and if you present a photo ID and proof of address, you will be given a provisional ballot. But with the documentation you present, that vote will count.

If you show up and have no documentation, you’ll be given a provisional ballot. But, and get this, you can provide ID and address information, after the election—up to the time of the canvass.

And anywhere in the process, if there are discrepancies between what you write on a registration form or ballot, and information on government records, Neill is empowered to use common sense. If your name matches the government record, if your address matches, but one digit of your social security number doesn’t match, the clerk knows that you’re you, and can proceed accordingly.

Not to mention that Utah is one of a few states where you can register and vote right up to 8 p.m. on election night.

Clearly, we here in Utah believe in democracy, at least as far as general elections go. And we live that value. I’ve never heard of charges of voter fraud or voter suppression here. God willing, may that ethic and practice continue.

Time for both sides to give in and end the federal shutdown


By Suzanne Dean




The federal government shutdown scares me to death.

One of the reasons America is America, and not Mexico, Russia or Zimbabwe, is because, unlike those other countries, we have a long tradition of functional government.

That includes coming together when the chips are down and forging bipartisan compromises to get things done.

Suddenly, those traditions seem threatened. And if things don’t get back to normal soon, we could start to loose our good economy, our peaceful lifestyles, our freedom.

I’m concerned about federal employees who aren’t being paid. Some of them are my close relatives. I was thinking about them and worrying about them today.

If the Sanpete News Company kept people working didn’t pay them, the Utah Labor Commission would be knocking at my door. How is it that the federal government can get away with the same thing?

But I’m also worried about the things that aren’t getting done while the government is shut down. If the shutdown continues for a long time, it could be downright scary.

I have a friend who works at the rubber plant in Nephi. The machines there have all kinds of safety guards to keep workers from cutting off fingers and arms. Thank you Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

I own a car that was recalled because when the airbags inflated, a projectile could came out that could poke me in the throat and kill me. The recall was thanks to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Over Christmas vacation, I flew back to Washington, D.C. to visit family members. The pilot of the planes I flew in knew when and where to take off, and when and where to land. Literally hundreds of thousands of planes take off and land safely every year in these United States. Thank you Federal Aviation Administration.

As I was relaxing on my flights, I was not worried that my plane would be hijacked. That’s because of all the controls administered by the Transportation Safety Administration, including the TSA officers who searched my bags as I got on the plane.

If you live in Milburn or Hideaway Valley, you may be one of those people who wouldn’t have a house today if it hadn’t been for the U.S. Forest Service, its airplanes, its helicopters and its knowledgeable professional firefighters.

I could go on and on. on. We live in relative peace; drive on well-maintained, safe roads; and are able to get mortgages and small-business loans, all because of what generally is an honest, efficient federal government staffed by people with specialized education and training.

If the shutdown doesn’t end soon, many of those government employees will be forced to quit. How will we replace them? We can’t.

Who do I blame? I blame all sides in the dispute.

The reason President Donald Trump is insisting on funding for a wall, the details of which are not defined, is not because a wall is needed for national security.

He’s insisting on it because it was a naive campaign promise he made without checking into the realities of such a project. Now some far right commentators are telling him if he doesn’t get the wall approved, he won’t be reelected. My observation is that getting re-elected is more important to him than the welfare of the country.

This column is not about the wall. It’s about the shutdown. But I will say that a proposal to build anything, without defining the location, without someone figuring out how to acquire easements where the project crosses private land, without extensive engineering studies, without itemizing the materials required and without listing the cost of those materials, would not pass a single city council in Sanpete County.

I’m disappointed in Mitch McConnell. Most of the appropriation bills to fund agencies that are shut down have already passed the Senate by veto-proof majorities. Yet he doesn’t have the political courage to put the country first, do his duty a leader in the legislative branch, bring the bills to the floor, pass them into law, and open the agencies again.

I’m upset with Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats. The president has asked the speaker repeatedly to meet with him. She keeps refusing because she wants wall funding separated from other appropriation bills. She thinks the shutdown is hurting the president, which will help the Democrats in the next election.

It may well be that the $5.7 billion for the wall is a complete waste of government money. But according to administration economists, the shutdown is costing $1 billion a day. At this writing, the shutdown had been going for 32 days. That’s a $32 billion hit. I say, “Mrs. Speaker, compromise on the wall. Let it go, for the sake of the American people.”

Former Utah Rep. Mia Love, who is now a CNN commentator, delivered some wonderful common sense in a recent appearance. She said the solution will be for both sides in this debacle to get what they want. Democrats will have to plug their noses and give the president his wall funding. Republicans will have to accept permanent legal status for DACA recipients and other immigration reforms.

Ok, Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, Mrs. Speaker, Democrats, Republicans, it’s time to give in. Give the other people what they want, even though you don’t want it. Ending the shutdown trumps all other considerations.

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A time to reflect on our shared heritage in the vast spaces of the West


By Suzanne Dean


I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago that brought home to me, poignantly, the heritage so many of us share and some of the ways our lives are changing here in the West.

Some of that conversation seems to be worth sharing at this time of year as family members come home from all over the United States and as snow falls gently on our small towns, farms, ranches and vast open spaces.

The conversation was at an open house for John Keeler marking his retirement after more than 40 years with the Utah Farm Bureau. I sat down next to Kim Chapman, director for USU Extension in Sevier County.

Given that the whole gathering was ag oriented, the logical question seemed to be, “Did you grow up on a farm?” Kim’s answer was yes and no.

His grandparents had homesteaded land outside Craig, Colo., which is located in the far northwestern corner of the state. When they started out, they had cattle. Then the depression hit and the bank called in some notes. Kim’s grandfather sold all the cattle, which gave him enough to save his land.

Kim’s grandparents switched to sheep and dry-land wheat. When Kim was growing up, his father, he and other family members helped out on the ranch. But like so many western ag operations, the property didn’t kick out enough cash to support the second-generation family, so in addition, his dad ran an auto mechanics business in Craig.

But the ranch had some attributes that went beyond monetary value. A migration path for deer, antelope and elk went right across their land. Every year, they got to watch more than 12,000 elk that were making an enormous circle from mountain, to valley (where the ranch was), and back up into the mountains.

Over Kim’s lifetime, Craig has grown significantly and now has a population of just under 10,000. Moffat County has 13,000. But the growth hasn’t been because of farming and ranching.

Coal mining, especially at what is known as the ColoWyo Mine, is the third largest source of jobs in Moffat County behind retail trade and local government. The mining jobs, which pay $70,000 to $75,000 per year, are by far the largest source of wages. There is also a large coal-fired power plant in Craig.

In 2006, the U.S. Interior Department approved a plan to expand the ColoWyo Mine. But a couple of years ago, an environmental group, the Wild Earth Guardians, filed a lawsuit with a goal of stopping coal-fired power generation. The suit culminated in a judge ordering a rewrite of the mine expansion plan.

But a rewritten plan may not matter much. Not only has coal received a lot of negative publicity, but power plants are finding they can generate power at less cost using natural gas and other fuels. That’s what’s happened at the Intermountain Power Project (IPP) in Millard County.

Between 2006 and 2013, coal mining in Moffat County dropped 46 percent. The Denver Post ran a feature on the area with the headline, “Moffat County facing fate of the changing West.”

I can relate. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side were Mormon pioneers who settled on inhospitable land in northern Arizona. When you see the land, it’s hard to figure out how they survived.

My grandparents lived in a house that fronted on Route 66 in Joseph City, Ariz. Their lot took up most of the block. About a fourth of the property was filled with a vegetable garden. No wonder I’m now a devotee of home canning.

Behind their house were the chicken coops and the old outhouse. When, as a little girl, I visited my grandparents, I got to lean against the fence and pet the horse. I gathered eggs with my grandmother and took them to the “egg house,” the egg marketing building up the street.

My uncles who stayed in Joseph City did whatever they could to eke out a living. Two of them became truck drivers. One got into chicken ranching. The chicken rancher was just starting to make good money when competition came along and drove him out of business.

Then came the saving grace—the Cholla coal-fired power plant owned by

Arizona Public Service (APS). My uncle who had been raising chickens went to work for the power plant and rose through the ranks. By the time he retired he had a big savings account. He was known for knocking on doors of people in Joseph City who were struggling and handing them $1,000 checks. His funeral was huge.

Most of my Joseph City male cousins have worked at the power plant. A couple who got college degrees ended up as the finance officer and IT specialist for the plant. Some have taken their Cholla experience elsewhere. One is the power superintendent for a municipal power operation in Nevada and one is in the top tier of management at IPP.

Last year, APS started closing the plant. The company said the action was in response not to environmental regulations but to low natural gas prices. When I heard about it, I almost flipped out. “Oh no, I thought. What is going to happen to my family down there? What will happen to the town?”

But back to Craig, Colo. and Kim Chapman, the Sevier County extension agent. I asked him if his family still had the ranch.

He seemed to get wistful. There was a time, he said, when he thought about going home and becoming a full-time farmer and rancher, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Piece by piece, his grandparents sold off their ranch, mostly to neighboring ranchers, until there was one piece left.

His grandfather is dead now. And a month or two earlier, his grandmother sold the last piece. Kim said it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do.

So what do we make of all of this. Above all, we who have our feet firmly planted in the West have our memories. We can’t stop the engine of change. We have a responsibility to protect the land and our right to use it. Hopefully, in many places, Sanpete County being one, the remnants of the western lifestyle will continue for quite a few years to come.


Americans accept all races,

show devotion to duty,

despite political divisions


By Suzanne Dean


Dec. 14, 2017


There’s a lot of evidence out there that Americans are politically divided. But I keep encountering evidence that person-to-person, in social and business relationships, we Americans, all Americans, get along very well. Hurricane Harvey certainly punctuated that conclusion.

To digress a little, I heard a commentator on CNN say that many people in President Trump’s “base” aren’t really worried about immigrants taking their jobs. (All you have to do is look around to figure out that immigrants are primarily taking jobs Americans won’t take.)

The base isn’t really worried about immigrants committing crimes. (All the studies show that illegal immigrants have a lower crime rate than legal immigrants and native-born citizens).

What many of these working-class Caucasians are worried about is the collectivity of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Middle Easterners, Native Americans and other ethnicities becoming the majority in America. Yes, the base is worried about becoming a minority in a majority-minority nation.

Based on the way our demography is going, I believe we will become a minority-majority nation. But based on what I saw in the Harvey coverage, what I’ve observed in some of our enlightened young people here in Sanpete County, and my personal experience, the majority-minority phenomenon is the least of my worries.

But back to the hurricane. So many anecdotes emerged from the Harvey coverage that I don’t know where to start.

There was the Houston police officer, Steve Perez, who drowned trying to get to work to help people. Based on his name and appearance, he was from a Hispanic background. The Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, who was born in Cuba, choked back tears as he announced Perez’s death.

There was the lady who went to a gas station in her neighborhood only to found the property crammed with people who had been rescued and were waiting to be taken somewhere else. They didn’t know where.

The lady invited families consisting of 16 people to come on over to her house. One of the families had two dogs, and one of the two dogs had recently had three puppies. (That’s five dogs.)

The 16 people and five dogs spent a couple of nights at this gracious lady’s house. When a CNN reporter asked what motivated her to take in all those strangers and how she was handling the crowd, she shrugged off the implied praise. Everyone was sitting around getting acquainted, she told a reporter. Everyone was getting along great.

Then there was the elderly African-American woman who got caught in her house with water up to her chest. She called 911, but no one came. Then a man across the street who she didn’t know, who only spoke Spanish, rescued her. He helped her travel five blocks through water waist-high or higher pushing a walker.

After the water receded, the elderly lady and her rescuer were reunited at her house. She gave him a tearful hug. With a bilingual, Latino CNN reporter translating, the rescuer said in Spanish that in times like these, “We’re all family.”

In my personal and business life, I keep seeing this same caring, acceptance of everybody and commitment to duty.

As a small business owner, at various times I talk to customer service reps and sales reps all over the county. Those encounters are overwhelmingly positive.

A couple of weeks ago, our business suddenly needed to buy something online and to pay a bill that could only be paid by credit card. But to do that, we needed to make a payment to our card and have the credit available immediately.

I called Capital One and got a young man in Virginia. He was exceptionally pleasant. He asked about the weather out in Utah and what kind of day I was having. He apologized for his computer being slow.

Then he very articulately and efficiently got through the whole transaction, including calling Zions Bank in Manti to verify funds. I have no idea if he was white, black or purple. He was just one American doing business with another American.

I have some close friends in Salt Lake City who are Latino. Earlier this year, after the Christmas break, one of the family members came to Ephraim to go to Snow College. The young man is living at my house.

I took him over to the Student Success Center at Snow to register for classes. While we were in the waiting room, a young man and then a young woman sat down across from us and started talking to each other. The boy said he was from Delta. The girl was from another nearby rural county—Beaver, I believe.

Then a tall African-American kid walked into the area. Immediately, the student from Delta jumped up. “Hey, man, you made it back,” he said. “How was your vacation?”

They shook hands in the traditional fashion, then did the vertical handshake (when I was in college, we called it the black power handshake) and then broke into a big hug. I said to myself, “That’s the future of America.”

Twenty years ago, before I bought the newspaper, I took in a half-Latina teenager as a foster child. It became clear this girl was attracted not to boys but to other girls. Her high school counselor told me, “Let her be who she is and she’ll flourish.”

Shauna and I went through a lot of ups and downs. But I think the one thing I managed to get across to her was that if she wanted to change her life, she needed education.

After she left my home, there was a period of about three years when I didn’t hear from her. I went to all kinds of lengths to find her, to no avail. Then one day she called me to let me know she had just finished her first semester of college with straight As.

To make a long story short, three months ago, Shauna completed coursework for a doctorate in audiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is now doing her internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She is also a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

At the beginning of August, she married a lady she has known for 13 years, and I flew to Portland for the wedding.

Do I care that she’s Hispanic and gay? Are you kidding? She’s been one of the most rewarding things that has happened in my life!

America is great because our people are great. All of our people. We will continue to be great because deep down, our values are right. Our Constitution, with its balance of powers and Bill of Rights, protects us from tyranny. Our free market economy incentivizes success.

Whatever our political divisions, we are blessed to live in the greatest nation in human history.

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Some final thoughts on one of the toughest stories the Sanpete Messenger has covered

By Suzanne Dean


Sept. 28, 2017


With the retirement of Ron Rasmussen, the Ephraim police controversy, one of the more difficult stories we at the Messenger have dealt with in many years, is over. I’m glad. And I have a few final thoughts.

First, no matter what skills, values and deficits (and we all have them) the chief brought to the job, his 28 years of service represents, as the mayor and city council pointed out following his retirement announcement, an enormous contribution.

Day in, day out, year in and year out, he responded to calls involving every imaginable sticky situation and tragedy. By all accounts, rather than arresting people and going for maximum punishment, he often tried to use those incidents to educate citizens and encourage them to take better courses in their lives. There is certainly a place in police work for such an approach.

I promised to review our coverage of the controversy to determine if the Sanpete Messenger was balanced and unbiased.

I did so. I put together some spreadsheets. One covered news stories plus my three opinion columns on the controversy, one covered news stories only, and one covered letters to the editor and other opinion items submitted to us by others (including the resignation letter from the three officers.)

Using the word-count feature on my computer, I counted the number of words in each piece that tended to favor the chief, the number of words that were neutral (such as reporting on the sequence of events, the investigative process, etc.) and the number that tended to support the allegations of the three officers.

I decided the fairest analysis was to separate news from opinion, as we do weekly in production of the paper. I did make one deviation. I wrote a 2,400-word analysis of the Utah County investigative report. It was the longest item we ran on the controversy, and although I ran it as a column on the Opinion page, 90 percent of it was straight news.

On items that ran as news stories, including analysis of the Utah County report, 49 percent of space favored the officers, 36 percent favored the chief, and 15 percent was neutral.

On submitted opinion pieces, including the officers’ resignation letter, letters to the editor, and excerpts from comments on our Facebook page, 54 percent of words favored the resigning officers’ viewpoint and 46 percent favored the chief.

One never achieves 50-50 balance in journalism. One problem we faced was that nearly every time we wrote a story, we sought Chief Rasmussen’s reply. For the most part, he didn’t return our calls.

On reflection, however, our coverage was deficient on one important point. We didn’t try to buttonhole the mayor, every member of the city council and the city manager and attempt to interview them in depth to find out what was said in the closed meeting where the council decided to reinstate Chief Rasmussen after placing him on administrative leave.

Since the whole thing was a personnel matter, I’m not sure how much they would have told us. But the lack of an explanation of the rationale for the city council vote was a gap in our coverage.

Rasmussen’s retirement gives City Manager Brant Hanson a chance to mold a completely new department with clear reporting lines. The job posting for a new chief seeks someone who has a college degree and/or progressively responsible supervisory experience in law enforcement. That’s what a growing Ephraim needs.

One final point: Over my career, I’ve written tons of stories involving police. But nearly all of those have been about crimes and arrests. The Ephraim police story opened my eyes to the central role of officers in a community.

The presence of police officers is one of the main things that make a collection of people and buildings into a community. Police officers represent all of us as, day in and day out, they go face-to-face into homes and businesses. They listen to disputes, take complaints and deal with people who are having some of their worst times. Then they try, within the law, to fix those problems.

Yes, they solve crimes and arrest people. But a huge part of what they do is daily public service, ranging from unlocking a car, to helping kids across the street to school, to rescuing a pet, to searching for a lost child, to trying to prevent a suicide.

We owe them more than we could ever pay them, and we don’t thank them enough.

A closer look at Utah County investigative report on Ephraim Police Department


Suzanne Dean




A couple of weekends ago, I finished a close read of the Utah County investigative report on the Ephraim Police Department.

After I did, I became aware that there were things that still needed to be addressed in our coverage of the document. I felt some additional interpretation was needed, which we were initially unable to provide due to deadlines and other constraints, to give readers a more complete view of what has gone on in the Ephraim Police Department.

I also felt we needed to give an expanded explanation of the considerations the city council faced in deciding to reinstate Chief Ron Rasmussen after placing him on administrative leave.

I need to state some caveats to this column. It doesn’t cover every issued raised in the Utah County report. My first draft was more than 4,000 words. That’s more than you, the reader, are going to want to read and more than the newspaper has space to print. I had to cut down to what I considered to be the important points.

If an average citizen read the Utah County report without knowing the background, he or she would probably say, “What’s the big deal?”

Having interviewed the three Ephraim officers who resigned, having interviewed the city manager two or three times, having interviewed Chief Rasmussen, having looked at some of the public documents connected with the case, and having talked to other reporters on staff who have had other interviews and also looked at documents, I believe I have a deeper understanding of the report than the casual reader.

So I’m going to interpret—in some cases reading between the lines of the report, providing background not in the report, and even stating my personal opinion on a few things. That’s why I’m doing this as a column under my name, rather than as a straight news story.

The answer we don’t know …

The main question in the whole controversy was why the city council decided to reinstate Chief Rasmussen.

The answer is we don’t know for sure. The deliberations were behind closed doors. One weakness in our Messenger coverage was that we didn’t specifically ask the mayor or the city manager about the rationale for reinstatement. I would also like to know why two city council members were not present at the closed meeting where the decision was made.

But based on the Utah County report and all I’ve been able to learn about the case, I think I can make some pretty safe assumptions. The council, I’m sure, viewed Rasmussen’s failure to complete hundreds of incident reports to be a problem. I don’t know if they connected the missing reports with a possible failure to investigate some crimes. But the significant finding from the report, in council members’ minds, was that failing to write reports was not a crime.

On the other hand, the report paints a picture of one of the three officers, Darren Pead, as an insubordinate troublemaker. Based on what I know, Pead took the lead in rallying other officers to try to get their boss investigated, fired and criminally prosecuted.

In the end, the city council sided against Pead and the other officers and with Rasmussen, the department head.

Lack of oversight

Since Rasmussen was reinstated, one might assume the Utah County report was favorable to him. Far from it. Every one of Rasmussen’s subordinates, and one former employee, faulted him for not writing reports, even when asked repeatedly to write them. The three patrol officers who later resigned said Rasmussen, very simply, was not a good cop. And the report cites incidents where the chief failed to display common-sense administrative skills.

But underlying the problems was city administrations which, going back years, failed to oversee the Rasmussen or the Police Department. Apparently, it wasn’t clear until recently whether the department reported to the city manager, as all city departments should, or directly to the mayor.

All police agencies in Sanpete County use the same electronic records system. When Utah County investigators searched the system in June, 272 reports came up as incomplete. Of those, 237 were Rasmussen’s.

Reports unwritten, reports cleared

We don’t know if that count covers all of the calls where Rasmussen didn’t write a report in a timely fashion. The chief acknowledged that he took calls for service on his cell phone. A case number and an associated electronic document for entering a report is only generated on calls that go through Sanpete County dispatch.

In Ephraim, Sgt. Len Gasser is responsible for clearing all reports, including Rasmussen’s. He told investigators he had cleared “a few” Rasmussen cases that didn’t contain a narrative about what the call was about. We don’t know how many cases is “a few.”

Finally, just before Rasmussen went on administrative leave, Mayor Ralph Squire directed him to write as many missing reports as possible. The chief spent at least a couple of days doing so. We don’t know how many reports, on calls that could have been years old, were written, and possibly cleared by Gasser, at the last minute.

One problem with Rasmussen failing to write reports was that line officers in the department were being held to a standard that the top officer was not meeting.

The Utah County report paraphrases Trista Jordan, the department records clerk. “She believes if any of the other officers were behind in their reports like the chief, they would be fired, and she believes this is unfair to the officers.”

Another problem was that when attorneys or state agencies needed a report in order to prosecute a case or do other important things like investigate child abuse or get restitution for victims, the report often wasn’t there.

The investigators looked into a case, which, while the complainant name was blacked out in the report before it was released to the public, was obviously the Adair child sodomy case. The Messenger ran a story about the case in early July.

The case record showed the Ephraim Police Department had received requests for the police report from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and the Utah Attorney General’s Office. And the Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations requested the report five times. Rasmussen still didn’t write the report.

All I can say is if an officer of a court or a state agency requested a business document from my company five times, and the employee responsible still didn’t provide the document, I’d fire the person.

Problem more than managerial

Rasmussen told Utah County investigators that the reason he didn’t write reports was that he got busy “and it all just snowballed.”

Judi Gines, the former records clerk, said the chief would sometimes lock himself in his office to do reports “but he would quickly get distracted by something else.”

My response is that one critical trait of a manager is the ability to ward out distractions and focus on a mandatory task until complete. I sometimes see lights on after 10 p.m. in the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office where public servants are apparently doing just that.

Incomplete police work

But the main problem with incomplete reports is that the reason they’re not complete may be that police work is not complete.

The Utah County report quotes one of the officers who resigned, Jared Hansen, as asking, “How many people have called the chief, and he told them he’d take care of it, but there is no follow through?”

Shortly after our first stories on the Rasmussen case came out, I got a phone call from a manager at a retail business in Ephraim about a case I hope is not typical.

The manager told me that in January 2017, an employee stole $2,200 in cash that was ready to be deposited in the bank. The store has clear video of the theft. Rasmussen was the responding officer on the case. He told the manager he would review the video and get back to him.

As of June, the employee had not been arrested. In fact, because of company policy and because the employee had not been arrested or charged, the store couldn’t even fire him.

I felt, as a citizen, I had an obligation to report what I’d heard. So on June 29, I emailed the city manager. Later, the store manager told me Rasmussen had come in again and again had promised to take care of the problem. But a couple of weeks passed, the store manager heard nothing, and the employee was not arrested.

When the store manager’s boss came in from out of town, the boss said, “Maybe we should sue Ephraim City.”  Mind you, the follow-up and second promise of action happened after the whole reports issue had blown up. I have not talked to the store manager in the past two weeks, so I don’t know if anything has been done recently on the case.

Chain of command

Regarding administrative issues, the culture in the Police Department did not seem to support taking serious concerns “up the food chain,” so to speak.

Both Larry Golding and Jared Hansen said they had gone to their direct supervisor, Sgt. Len Gasser, repeatedly (one said “dozens of times”) to express concern about Rasmussen’s reports.

Based on the Utah County report, Gasser himself talked with Rasmussen about the reporting problem many times. But Gasser never escalated the issue to the city manager or the mayor. If he had, the reporting issue could have been resolved years ago, and the expense and pain of the recent controversy avoided.

Apparently, there were no disciplinary policies or procedures in the department (at least none that were being followed). When Darren Pead defied a direct order to sign a memo agreeing to use a department template for incident reports, Gasser wanted to write Pead up. Rasmussen told him not to.

Darren Pead himself told investigators that it appeared to him “that the chief couldn’t make a decision.”

Supporting the chief

But as I implied at the beginning of this column, the Utah County report also contained substantial information supporting the chief. The most persuasive material for me was statements by Sgt. Gasser, Judi Gines and Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nelson describing Rasmussen as honest and a man of integrity.

Gasser described Rasmussen as “the most honest person I know.”

Sheriff Nielson described the chief as “the most honest person…has tremendous integrity…never shirks anything to benefit someone else…really takes care of his guys.”

Besides asking Sheriff Nielson for feedback on Rasmussen, Utah County investigators asked if the sheriff he had any concerns with any of the Ephraim officers. Nielson said he had concerns about Darren Pead, who formerly worked for the Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff said, in the words of the report,  that Pead “believed that he was always right and did not like to be told what to do.” According to the report, the sheriff said that “while Officer Pead was working for the Sheriff’s Office…they had similar problems (to what) Ephraim is now having with him.”

Reading between the lines of the Utah County report, the starting point in the whole police controversy was a dispute between Sgt. Gasser and Darren Pead about the template the sergeant wanted officers to follow in writing their reports.

Pead claimed the template “didn’t flow” and impeded him in writing a clear, chronological narrative about what happened.

Another issue that came to the fore about the same time was officers unplugging their GPS devices. All of the Ephraim officers had GPS’s in their vehicles. Rasmussen told investigators he tracked officers by GPS in order to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. But at least two of the officers found this tracking to be intrusive and periodically unplugged their GPS’s.

In late May of this year, while Rasmussen was on vacation, Gasser drew up a memo containing several directives to his officers, including directing them not to unplug their GPS’s and requiring them to use the template.

Golding and Hansen signed the memo. According to the Utah County report, “Officer Pead refused to sign the form. He stated he would comply with all of it except the use of the template. Officer Pead drew an arrow up, indicating his agreement with the directives on the memo other than the template. He then signed the paper near his arrow.”

At that point, according to the Utah County report, Gasser told Pead complying with the whole memo was not a request, but an order. “Officer Pead still did not sign the form..,” the report says.

I’ve covered other police departments, including Salt Lake City police. They all have templates. And all officers in Sanpete County follow a template in writing probable cause statements that are used to prosecute people for crimes.

The Utah County report included the headings used in the template. Although the template might force officers to repeat information, or to answer “not applicable” to some items, the format looked workable to me.

Blistering email

Right after the memo-signing incident, Darren Pead sent what can only be described as a blistering email to Rasmussen. The email was provided as an appendix to the Utah County report.

“Words cannot express how disappointed I am with this department right now,” Pead wrote. “After the extreme corruption that I dealt with in the county, this is over the top for me. I never would have come here if I would’ve know it was this way here…

“This is absolute madness, and I would be flexible as possible if it didn’t affect my professionalism…I would rather work in any other place than here right now…If this is how it’s going to be, you might as well let me know face to face so I can move on and we can stop wasting everyone’s time.”

After Rasmussen returned from vacation, he and Pead met about the template issue for somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Then, according to the Utah County report, Rasmussen asked Pead to come to a meeting with both him and Gasser later in the day, but Pead “asked to be excused” from the second meeting.

My personal reaction is that if one of my employees sent me an email like the one Pead sent Rasmussen, I would have the person in my office as soon as I possibly could. The meeting would run 15 minutes, not an hour and a half to two hours.

I would have a written warning ready to go and would tell the person, “Based on your attitude, I don’t believe our company is the right fit for you. We value your skills, but you are going to need to change your attitude to stay here. Do you want to commit to changing your attitude, or would you prefer to leave now?”

After the meeting with Rasmussen, it appears Pead took the lead in starting to look up information about chief’s missing reports and rallying the two other officers to take a stand against the chief.

‘Official misconduct’

During that time, Pead texted the mayor and city manager a copy of a state statute on “official misconduct.” The statute says, “A public servant is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor if, with an intent to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act, which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”

In interviews with the Messenger, Pead took the position that Rasmussen’s failure to complete reports was a case of “knowingly refrain(ing) from performing a duty…clearly inherent in the nature of his office” and thus a violation of the statute.

Pead didn’t just want Rasmussen removed from his job. He wanted him criminally prosecuted. While, in interviews with the newspaper, the other officers weren’t as adamant as Pead about wanting criminal prosecution, they ultimately took the same stand.

But there was a qualifier in the statute that apparently applies to both “commit(ting) an unauthorized act” and “refrain(ing) from performing a duty imposed…inherent in the nature of his office.” The public official has to act “with an intent to benefit himself or another, or to harm another.”

Utah County investigators asked the chief “if there was ever any time he did not finish a report due to his relationship with either the suspect or the victim, or anyone else somehow involved with the case.” Rasmussen said he had not.

The investigators asked the chief if he and Sgt. Gasser had ever “conspired with each other to not complete a report for one reason or another.” The chief stated that they had not.

Not criminal

The investigators went a step further. They asked Rasmussen, if he was required to take a polygraph test and asked the same questions, would he pass? According to the report, “He stated, without hesitation, that he would certainly pass the exam. Chief Rasmussen denied several times any intent to not complete any of his reports.”

Subsequently, one of the investigators talked with the Utah County attorney, a deputy Utah county attorney and Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel. All three agreed that Rasmussen’s failure to complete reports, in the words of the Utah County document, “did not rise to a criminal level.”

Inaccurate information

There was one area of the Utah County report where I fear investigators did not have accurate information. One premise in the report was that the Ephraim Police Department was overworked. Sgt. Gasser told an investigator Ephraim had grown to a population of 7,000, plus 5,000 at the college.

The U.S. Census and Utah Data Center estimate of the 2017 population of Ephraim is 6,724, including Snow College. And there was nothing in the report mentioning that Snow College has two full-time officers who frequently respond to calls off campus. So in fact, there were five full-time officers (and now six) for a population of less than 7,000.

The Utah County report said that during 2016, Ephraim officers responded to an average of 386.6 calls per officer. If an officer works five days per week and takes three weeks of vacation, that comes out to 1.6 calls per shift.

Not terribly busy

When I interviewed the three officers who resigned, they told me they were not terribly busy with calls. One officer said he sometimes worked a whole weekend without getting a call. The officers said when they didn’t have calls, they generated their own work by following up on leads related to drug trafficking and other crimes. But all said they had plenty of time to write reports and usually completed them by the end of each shift.

That’s the story, and it’s not fake news. It’s the most truthful account I could ascertain with based on all the information available—and that was a lot of information.

Neither the Messenger as a newspaper nor I as publisher has ever taken a stand on whether or not the city council should have reinstated Chief Rasmussen. My staff and I do believe in representative democracy. Once duly elected representatives have made a final decision, we support the decision.

Life not simple, neither is journalism but Messenger has stuck by public’s right to know


Publisher’s perspective


We at the Sanpete Messenger have been reeling this past week from public reaction to our coverage of the Ephraim police investigation and officer resignations—as well as from new revelations about police cases where documentation and follow-up have been insufficient, to say the least.

My staff has had numerous meetings about journalism ethics, what to say, what not to say, what sources we should and shouldn’t use, and how to promote unity in the community, if that’s possible.

To get a clear view of this deliberation process, you need to know a little about our staff. Over the years I’ve owned the newspaper, I’ve had people of varying skill levels writing for me. In the past month, I have been able to bring back two of the most talented people who have worked for me over the past 16 years.

As things stand, we have five people on our editorial staff. Two have master’s and two have bachelor’s degrees. (One of those is a couple of credits short of his bachelor’s, but certainly has the equivalent). One staff member has the equivalent of an associate degree but plans to pursue further journalism education.

Collectively, our staff has an average of 16 years of experience in journalism and related work. Those qualifications are almost unprecedented for a tiny newspaper like the Messenger.

            Are we a bunch of flaming liberals churning out fake news? I’m sorry to disappoint some people, but we’re nothing of the sort. Two of our staff members are what I would describe as conservative Democrats. Three are Republicans or right-leaning, including one who is a very conservative Republican.

All of us are committed to the facts, including accurately reporting what people say to us. We spend hours every week verifying spellings, dollar figures, geographic information, historical information and more.

In one of our meetings last week, I told my staff I was getting input that the police story was dividing the Ephraim community. I told my staff, “People are suggesting we should let the story die to avoid inflaming people on either side.”

Of course, squelching public information goes against everything I’ve been taught, taught to others, lived and breathed over 40 years in journalism.

In the staff meeting, I said, in essence, “Maybe I could say in my column that people can and should support both sides in the controversy. They can acknowledge Ron Rasmussen made mistakes over his years as police chief. But now their elected officials have decided to retain him, everybody should support him in adapting to a new job description and rebuilding the department.

“I can encourage people to also support the officers. They had the courage, at great sacrifice, to act on their convictions. Their actions dramatized the need for change, and in fact, will almost certainly result in change. They also deserve thanks for their years of dedicated service to the community.”

One of my staff members piped up. He has been reviewing police dispatch summaries and identifying cases where police reports were missing. “Who supports the victims,” he asked. “I’ve cried a couple of times over the weekend. This is real. These are real people.”

He mentioned one of the cases. It was dispatched as people hearing children screaming inside a home, saying, “Why are you hurting me? What did I do wrong?”

When I walked in the office this morning, my managing editor told me about a court case he had just learned about. According to police and court records, a 28-year-old woman from Mt. Pleasant took a 12-year-old boy and another boy (age not provided) from Manti to her house in Mt. Pleasant and kept them overnight without their parents’ permission.

A few days later, the same woman apparently took a juvenile to a park restroom in Manti and asked him take photos of her topless.

My immediate reaction was, “I think we need a story on that.”

A few hours later, after my managing editor dug into the story a little further, there was a twist. The woman’s attorney had requested a neuropsychiatric evaluation because the woman has Huntington’s Disease, a neurological disorder that can affect thinking and memory.

Life is not simple. Neither is journalism. I decided parents need to know about dangers to their children lurking in our communities. I told my writer to go ahead but to mention the neuropsychiatric evaluation high in the story.

That brings me back to Chief Rasmussen. People have a right to know and a need to know what goes on, and what has gone on, in their communities.

Depending on developments, the Ephraim police story will probably drop off the front page. But I remain committed to reviewing all 1,600 of the calls Chief Rasmussen responded to over the past 10 years and informing the public about the documentation and follow-up, or lack thereof, in those cases.

Suzanne Dean, publisher of the Sanpete Messenger

We love Ron Rasmussen, but being police chief is not a popularity contest


Suzanne Dean




When I first heard that Ephraim Police Chief Ron Rasmussen had been placed on administrative leave, my reaction was, “Oh no. Not Ron.”

I’ve known Ron Rasmussen for most of the 16-plus years I’ve owned the Messenger. Although he has not always returned my calls seeking information for police stories, he’s a heck of a nice guy and I’ve enjoyed working with him.

I remember thinking, “I can’t imagine Ron has done anything wrong.” I was relieved when Ephraim City Manager Brant Hanson told me that the administrative leave didn’t necessarily imply wrongdoing.

I thought, “They probably targeted him because he’s head of the police department and accountable for everything that goes on, even though he himself probably didn’t do anything wrong.” But it turned out the focus of the investigation was Rasmussen himself.

The reporting I and other Messenger staff members have done over the past three days has practically sent my head spinning on its axis.

I have been forced to conclude that as warm a person as he is, as much as he has done for youth, Snow College and average people in the community, Rasmussen has not been the best police chief.

That’s the dilemma of living in a small community. You get to know people, like them and love them. But that doesn’t mean a given friend or neighbor is a good public administrator, school superintendent or mayor, or runs their company ethically. How do you walk that line, especially if you are the publisher of the local newspaper?

Let me say a few things about the Rasmussen case.

For a police officer, failure to file incident reports is a serious matter. It means information gathered in the initial stages of investigation is not available for further investigation. It can mean prosecutors do not have information needed to decide whether to file charges, or what kind of charges apply.

Another problem with incomplete reports is that they can be a cover for failing to pursue a case and for letting potential suspects go. We have some strong evidence in this week’s paper suggesting that is what happened in a child sexual abuse case reported by a woman named Rachelle Adair. Rasmussen handled (or, based on evidence, failed to handle) the case.  (See article below).

I’m not an attorney, but I fear Adair might have grounds for a liability suit against the city.

I reject any suggestion that the three officers who resigned are simply disgruntled employees. I met with them. I talked with them. They were articulate, they remembered details, and they took care to make sure everything they said was factually accurate. They did not go into tirades criticizing their superiors.

It is significant that there were three of them: All three of were saying the same things about the police report issue and about Rasmussen’s work habits.

I do think the officers were perhaps inflexible in rejecting proposals from the city administration under which Rasmussen might have resigned and a new chief been appointed without an investigation.

The officers were convinced some of Rasmussen’s omissions were criminal and wanted to see charges filed. But even in pursuing justice, there’s a place for being practical, compassionate and going for the best outcome.

Meanwhile, in light of the information that has come out in the past week, I have to ask: Is Ron Rasmussen worth what Ephraim City is paying him? Our reporting shows he is one of the highest paid police chiefs in Utah in a city of comparable size to Ephraim.

As of July 1, his salary will be just under $89,000. The city is also contributing $23,000 to his 401K. That’s because, since he “retired in place” in 2010, the Utah State Retirement System is no longer requiring or accepting retirement contributions on his behalf.

So the city is putting $23,000, the amount it would have put into his URS account if he had not retired, into his 401K. The city is not legally obligated to make such a contribution.

Rasmussen’s total compensation from the city coffers, not counting benefits, comes to $112,000. With retirement pay, he’s getting just under $130,000.

No doubt, Ron Rasmussen is a popular person. He’s popular with me. But as police chief, he’s not in a popularity contest.

Recently, Utah Business magazine gave awards to top managers “who combine subject-matter expertise with a leadership philosophy that lifts up those around him.”

That sounds like a good job description for a police chief, one I hope Rasmussen will be able to live up to.

Don’t let Utah follow other states down the primrose path of marijuana


Suzanne Dean



I don’t care if 26 states have legalized so-called “medical marijuana” or if two neighboring states, Nevada and Colorado, have legalized recreational marijuana use.

I hope Utah will not be so foolish as to tread down the same pathway.

I have heard some of the anecdotes about marijuana being a tremendous help for chronic pain, PTDS, seizures, cancer and other problems. Great. Let’s have controlled studies and release marijuana derivatives as pharmaceuticals.

I’ve also heard people argue that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, that lots of people can use it in limited quantities with no adverse effects.

But my observation, which I admit is based on personal experience with people who use or have used marijuana, is that more often than not, pot is a problem.

Since marijuana frequently causes problems for users and society, why make it easier to use by legalizing it. I believe the fact that it is illegal is a barrier to use for many people.

But back to my personal experiences with users. One lady I know is in her 50s or 60s and has used marijuana pretty much daily all her adult life.

When I first met her, I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t do a little better in finding and holding jobs, and in bringing in income.

She raised a son as a single mom. He went into the military and did pretty well. But for several years after leaving home, he refused to communicate with his mother. Why? Because she had been high the whole time he had been growing up.

Ultimately, this lady sold a nice house in Salt Lake City, took the cash and moved to a small farm in California where she could grow her own pot with little chance of detection.

That’s where she’s been for at least 10 years. From what I hear, she doesn’t work much, if at all, so I’m not sure how she gets by. But the bottom line is that marijuana has been the controlling influence in her life.

Another young man I know got off marijuana—and then relapsed. He got in a car in Salt Lake City and drove, sometimes at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, to Axtell. He got one speeding ticket on the way.

From Axtell, he traveled north to Manti. The time was after 2 a.m. in the middle of the winter. Suddenly, he had a hankering to see if he could drive up the side of Temple Hill.

He ended up high-centering his vehicle very near the edge of a precipice. Fortunately, the car didn’t roll down the hill with him in it. But the vehicle was destroyed, and the young man ended up with charges.

In another case, a person who had used pot multiple times per day for several years quit. Almost immediately, he was plagued with paranoid thoughts. People were looking at him. They were talking about it.

I decided to do a quick search on WebMD, an authoritative health website. I found out that paranoia is a common withdrawal effect. The thing that stood out was a statement on the site that 75 percent of people who try to quit smoking marijuana go back on it in order to stop the effects of withdrawal. It can take months after cessation for those effects to go away.

Recently, the Utah Medical Association (UMA) published an article in the association magazine about medical marijuana. Dr. Robert Armstrong at the Manti Clinic gave me a copy.

The main point was that whole-plant marijuana is not medicine because it has never been studied or approved for any medicinal use.

The article cites two drugs containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that produces the high, that were approved by the FDA in the mid-1990s and can be prescribed for nausea and pain.

Another drug using cannabinol, another substance from the marijuana plant, is being studied, but while research is going on, it can be prescribed for “compassionate” use. One of the study sites is the University of Utah.

In 2014, the Utah Legislature approved very limited use of cannabis oil for children suffering from a specific type of epileptic seizure. Much as I sympathize with the parents, I agree with the UMA that legislators have no business approving drugs.

Meanwhile, according to the Utah Medical Association article, eight other studies attempting to prove the value of marijuana derivatives have been terminated without a drug being approved.

As Dr. Mark Bair, the author of the article, a physician, pharmacist and former UMA president, said in a press conference last week, “As much as has been claimed (about the medicinal benefits of marijuana), not much has been proven, and much of it has been debunked.”

The final paragraph in a statement released at the press conference made it clear where most Utah doctors stand on marijuana. It called on physicians to let their patients know they will not be prescribing pot because “it just isn’t good medicine.”

I’m not a doctor, but based on what I have observed and learned, I heartily agree.





Judge Don V. Tibbs

Judge Don V. Tibbs


[Read more…]

Suzanne Dean, publisher of the Sanpete Messenger

Suzanne Dean, publisher of the Sanpete Messenger

In a year of tough choices, Trump is no choice at all


Suzanne Dean




Life is full of tough choices, including instances where you have to choose the lesser of two evils. But for me, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump isn’t difficult at all. The Wall Street Journal, a traditionally conservative Republican publication, summed it up for me in their editorial endorsing Clinton.
“Her election alone is what stands between the American nation and the reign of the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit president to ever enter the White House.”
Let me say parenthetically that I respect Utahns who are voting for Evan McMullin. They may, in fact, deny Trump Utah’s six electoral votes, a laudable action. But it’s not for me. I voted for a third-party candidate once, and after the election had an unsatisfying feeling that I’d wasted my vote by casting it for someone who didn’t have a chance.
But back to Donald Trump and why I believe he poses a danger to American democracy.
First, there’s the rhetoric. He has mocked a disabled person, declared that we shouldn’t permit Muslims in the United States “until we figure out what’s going on,” described Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and racists and said John    McCain isn’t a hero because he got captured and held as a prisoner in Vietnam.
There was his declaration that he knows more about ISIS than the generals. He claimed Ted Cruz’s father had been with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Oswald shot JFK. Then there was his whole birther movement in which he claimed      President Obama had not been born in the United States. And those are a tiny sample of the man’s outrageous statements.
Trump has based his candidacy on the concept that he is an outsider, a successful businessman who can break through the Washington gridlock.
Let me share something that isn’t really a secret. Trump is not a particularly successful businessman. In the early 1990s, he came within a sliver of being forced into personal bankruptcy. His companies have filed for bankruptcy four times.
In the past 20 years, he hasn’t really owned most of the properties that bear his name. He’s sold his name itself, his brand, to other developers.
He has claimed he is worth as much as $8 billion. But one biographer assessed his net worth at $150-$250 million. As he has done more than 4,000 times, Trump sued.
When he was asked under oath in a deposition how much he was worth, he replied that the figure fluctuates “with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.” He added that he determined the number based on his “general attitude at the time and the question that may be asked.”
Heaven help us if Trump wins the presidency and starts using such a methodology to denominate the federal budget or national debt.
I have to say, I wasn’t particularly surprised when the Access Hollywood tape came out. People with narcissistic personality disorders believe they have a right to do whatever they want to do. They frequently get into trouble over sexual behavior.
As for the women who have come forward to say Trump made unwanted advances, kissed or groped them, I believe them!

I listened intently as Anderson Cooper of CNN interviewed a woman who had to be in her late 60s or 70s. She described in detail, detail so specific I’m convinced it was authentic, sitting next to Trump in an airplane. Suddenly, she said, without saying anything, he became an “octopus” and touched all parts of her body, including putting his hand up her skirt. She moved.
Some argue that we must set character aside (something I will never do) and focus on public policy. As far as I’m concerned, Trump gets an “F” in that subject, too.
The fact is, most of the time, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He says he’s going to build a wall between the            United States and Mexico, a logistic impossibility. And, yes, he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it.
He says he will repeal and replace Obamacare. But his comments after Obamacare premiums went up showed he has no idea how the program, flawed as it is, works.
I wish I had time and space for more examples.
Ted Cruz, a Republican who is way to the right of my political views, summed up Trump when he called him a “pathological liar,” “utterly immoral,” and a “serial philanderer.”
Hillary Clinton is far from perfect. Her use of a private email server was a silly move and a big mistake. I suspect her motive was to be able to communicate candidly without the chance of her writings becoming public or possibly subject to Freedom-of-Information-Act inquiries. It didn’t quite work out the way she planned.
But I balance that against her experience and accomplishments. She is a Yale-trained attorney who established herself as a leader as a very young woman.
She was on the staff of the congressional inquiry into Watergate, worked as a children’s advocate and was a law professor in Arkansas. She was the first lady of Arkansas and the first lady of the United States.
As a U.S. senator, she worked on legislation across the spectrum, including encouraging troop withdrawals from Iraq, raising pay and benefits for members of the Armed Forces, getting funding for redevelopment of parts of New York City destroyed by the 911 attacks, calling for an investigation of the federal government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina, and getting funding to bring broadband to rural areas. That’s a small sample.
When she left the State Department, according to the respected on-line magazine Politico, she “stepped down to a torrent of praise.” The CEO of Google called her “the most consequential secretary of state since Dean Acheson” and Sen. John McCain described her as “outstanding.”
In fact, I believe Hillary Clinton’s life embodies the Methodist slogan she pronounced in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” What a different value system from what we’ve seen and heard from Donald Trump.
In its editorial, the Wall Street Journal summed up Clinton as “experienced, forward-looking, indomitably determined and eminently sane.”
In this most exceptional of elections, that’s good enough for me.

Suzanne Dean, publisher of the Sanpete Messenger

Suzanne Dean, publisher of the Sanpete Messenger

Donald Trump must never become president of the United States


By Suzanne Dean




I couldn’t possibly, in the space available, cite all the examples I’ve gathered of statements by Donald Trump that I find to be simplistic, mean, crass and dangerous.

There are many reasons why Donald Trump must never become president of the United States, such as his repeated business bankruptcies, unprincipled business practices, and the fact that over the past 10 years, his political statements have been all over the map.

But I believe his rhetoric alone is reason to reject him. I believe America can be, and at its core is, a civil, respectful society committed to democratic ideals. The president of the United States must model those values. Trump does not.

For starters, far from speaking respectfully, Trump mercilessly insults anyone he views as an adversary. For example, “Ted Cruz is a totally unstable individual. He is single biggest liar I’ve ever come across, in politics or otherwise, and I have seen some of the best of them. His statements are totally untrue and completely outrageous. It is hard to believe a person who proclaims to be a Christian could be so dishonest and lie so much.”

When it comes to women, Trump gets downright nasty and vulgar. After Megyn Kelly, an attorney and accomplished journalist for Fox News, a Republican-oriented, conservative network, asked Trump some perfectly legitimate questions, such as “When did you become a Republican?”, Trump attacked her.

“Well, I just don’t respect her as a journalist. I have no respect for her. I don’t think she’s very good. I think she’s highly overrated….She gets out and starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her (pause) wherever.”

And after some intemperate statements at a rally, Trump, knowing the press would report what he had said (as it has a responsibility to do), attacked the whole press gallery.

“Now you might say that wasn’t very nice,” he said. “Who cares? I can leave this scum, the press back here, they’re garbage. I don’t need them anymore. No, they’re scum.”

One attack that astonished me was against someone who isn’t even a Trump adversary. Sen. John McCain is serving his fourth term in the U.S. Senate and was a Republican candidate for president, the post to which Trump aspires. Everybody knows that McCain spent five years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, where he was starved and tortured. When he returned to the United States after the war, he could barely walk with crutches.

Of McCain, Trump said, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” When ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz challenged Trump on his statement, Trump repeatedly called McCain a “dummy.”

In America, we respect people’s right to protest. Every politician deals with hecklers, and typically, police or security offices ask them to be quiet or leave.

But in a rally in Las Vegas, Trump all but advocated violent retaliation against a heckler. “We’re not allowed to punch back anymore,” he said. “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks….I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

Then there’s the litany of statements that, at their core, have to be regarded as racist.

Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Another time, Trump said, “We have many problems in our country. One of them is immigration. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And now we have Syrians. If I win, they’re going back. We can’t have them.”

Trump has made statements in years past that demonstrated he was well aware of David Duke, the one-time grand master of the Ku Klux Klan, who has tried to get nominated for president in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Duke put a post on Facebook endorsing Trump. Among numerous statements, the post said Trump would break up “Jewish dominated lobbies” and ensure “white Americans are allowed to preserve and promote their heritage and interests just as all other groups are allowed to do.”

Journalist Jake Tapper of CNN asked Trump whether he would disavow Duke and other white supremacist groups.

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK,” Trump responded.

After Tapper pressed him three times, Trump said, “I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know. Did he endorse me or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.”

Over the next few days, Trump was forced to disavow Duke and the KKK, but, to me, his statements sounded half-hearted. His tenor was, “OK, I disavowed him. So get off my back.”

A few days later, after the South Carolina primary, CNN reported a poll had showed 25 percent of South Carolina residents who voted for Trump believed slavery never should have been abolished. I have to wonder if there was a connection between that sentiment and Trump’s response to the Duke endorsement.

Then there are Trump’s simplistic statements about policies. He implies he can solve vexing national problems virtually with a wave of his hand.

On his impractical idea of building a wall the length of the 1,989-mile border between the United States and Mexico, including across many remote and mountainous areas, he says, “Mexico makes a fortune because of us. A wall is a tiny little peanut compared to the kind of money…I would do something very severe unless they contributed or gave us money (to build a wall). I’d build it. I’m very good at building.”

His economic program is even simpler. “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created, I tell you….I will bring jobs back from China. I will bring jobs back from Japan. I will bring jobs back from Mexico. I’m going to bring jobs back, and I’ll start bringing them back very fast.”

Michael Leavitt, who spent decades in public service as Utah governor and secretary of health and human services, summed up the problem with such declarations.

“The reality is if Trump were elected,” Leavitt said, “he would be extraordinarily surprised at how much more complicated governing is than he makes it sound. If he is unable to produce on his rather outlandish commitments, the people who are enthused by his message now would be incredibly disappointed.”

What dumfounds me is how Trump is gathering such a huge national following.

On a CNN program last Sunday, Carl Bernstein of Woodward-and-Bernstein fame called the Trump phenomenon a cross between celebrity culture and neo-fascism.

A professor who did a study of Trump supporters found many believe in an authoritarian approach in other areas of life, such as child rearing.

Sadly, the most qualified candidate on the Republican stage is John Kasich. He has served in leadership roles in Congress and been a successful governor of a large industrial state. He is the most substantive of any of the candidates on policy and the most measured in rhetoric. No wonder he’s been endorsed by both the New York Times and Washington Post, organizations that, if I may say so, have a much closer view of what’s going on than you and I. Yet at the time of this writing, he was barely still in the race.

In summary, Donald Trump does not speak for me, and I don’t believe he speaks for most people in our county. I hope Sanpete Republicans will send that message when they vote in the Republican presidential preference caucuses on March 22.