CACHE COUNTY – The toxic environment of the Cache County government finally spilled over into an open meeting on Mar. 26, with a dramatic display of finger-pointing and accusations.

“I’m deeply concerned about the threats, the intimidation, the hostility and retaliation that exists in Cache County,” said Terryl Warner, the county’s director of its Office of Victim Advocacy.

Warner, a 28-year veteran employee of the county, voiced her complaints to the Cache County Council in what could only be described as a one-woman manifesto condemning the county government’s toxic environment.

“For many years,” she recalled, “we had a respect-based model of leadership. Today, we have a fear-based model of leadership.”

That hostile environment has led to low-morale, high-turnover, low creativity and low innovation on the part of county employees, Warner contended.

Proving her point, Warner cited county employees who had been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, been threatened with lawsuits and are reportedly afraid to come to work every day.

Warner’s complaints about employees being forced to sign NDA’s and threatened with lawsuits were confirmed by a state audit in July of 2023 by the Utah Office of Victims of Crime.

“Did you know,” she asked the council members,  “that there are people who wanted to be here to support my remarks? But they were afraid to come because of the hostility and intimidation that exists in Cache County’s government.”

When it came to citing specifics, however, Warner laid most the blame on the doorstep of County Executive David Zook.

Warner said that she has received two threatening text messages in February from Cameron Cox, a candidate for county attorney in the upcoming November election.

In a news story reported Mar. 27 in the Salt Lake Tribune, Cox acknowledged sending those texts but insisted that they were not intended to be threatening.

When Warner reported those texts to Zook, not only did he fail to take them seriously, she claimed, but also admonished her for “gossiping.”

Moreover, she insisted, Zook’s failure to take action on Warner’s complaints about Cox could also threaten the county’s continuing to receive a $500,000 grant from the state under the Violence Against Women Act.

Warner also blamed Zook’s hit-and-miss contract-signing authority for what she termed “the Rich County fiasco” and budgetary overruns on the Children’s Justice Center.

The so-called “Rich County Fiasco” involved misappropriations of funds that resulted in Cache County returning approximately $78,000 to the state.

“What I want to know,” Warner challenged the members of the county council, “is if you’re willing to change this current culture of bullying, threats, intimidation and retaliation toward county employees?”

On the spot, each member of the council responded affirmatively. Council vice chair Barbara Tidwell became emotional during her comments.

Council chair David Erickson said that he had wanted to institute a policy protecting county whistleblowers years ago, but had been lied to by county officials.

Then Zook got to have his say.

Zook acknowledged that he had not signed a contract for an outside entry to investigate Warner’s claims about the Cox texts. He emphasized, however, that the inquiry was being pursued, but declined to discuss those details in an open meeting.

Much of the county’s problems, Zook added, come from a total lack of communication.

“The problem, as I see it, is disrespect,” the county executive explained. “There is a refusal to meet.

“Just because you’re upset with somebody, that doesn’t mean that you can just write them off and never speak to them again.”

“The other problem here,” he added, “ is that there is investigation after audit after accusation in this organization, over and over again.

“There is nobody here – no elected official and no employee – who is evil. But that’s the prevailing opinion of so many.”

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