Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova was charged by the Utah Attorney General’s Office on Thursday for misuse of public funds. The charges are connected to the alleged use of county-owned vehicles and credit cards to move personal items to a new home in St. George.
While moving personal items, Cordova allegedly used a county credit card to pay for fuel. The sheriff used the card 26 times, spending approximately $2,100 worth of public funds, resulting in a third-degree felony charge.
Allegations claim that Cordova not only purchased fuel using a county-issued credit card, but that he also used a truck and trailer owned by Carbon County to move personal belongings to St. George. A class C misdemeanor for a license plate violation was also filed upon the allegation that Cordova switched the license plate on a search and rescue trailer with a plate from another trailer.
Additionally, according to county attorney Gene Strate, several calls came in to commissioners questioning why Cordova spends very little time at the sheriff’s office, prompting an investigation. Callers also questioned the use of county-owned property by the sheriff.
As to claims that Cordova is seldom at the sheriff’s office, Strate explained that as an elected official the sheriff’s job is to make sure the office runs well. “I believe he is an exemplary officer,” the county attorney stated earlier this year. “He may have used poor judgement and this is a gray area that needs to be sorted out.”
In July, a commission meeting was packed while citizens raised questions regarding the sheriff’s alleged absence from his office.
Carbon County Attorney Christian Bryner explained that as of mid-July, Cordova had only been in the office a total of 26 times since January. “He has delegated duties to others,” the county attorney explained. “It appears that his retirement is starting before his retirement officially starts.”
At that time, daily operation responsibilities were taken over by chief deputy Tom Stefanoff. During this year’s election, Cordova did not seek re-election. In November, Stefanoff lost to Republican Jeff Wood for the sheriff position. Wood will be sworn in as sheriff in January.
Cordova was originally elected as Carbon County Sheriff in 1999 and has held the position since. His current term will end in December.