Thursday, October 8, 2009

How Logan, Utah Mayor Randy Watts Fueled Controversy Over Police Chief Gary Jensen And His "Vernal Ass-Whip" Video

What should have been a simple open-and-shut case over Logan Police Chief Designate Gary Jensen's appearance in a controversial two-year-old "Vernal Ass-Whip" video has become complicated over the failure of some involved parties to get their stories straight. I refer to Jensen as "designate" simply because he has not yet been confirmed by the Logan Municipal Council. See previous post for more background.

According to an October 7th story in the Logan Herald-Journal, the center of the controversy has now shifted to whether or not elected officials in Vernal, Utah had seen the video back in 2007 when Jensen was still their police chief. Both Logan Mayor Randy Watts and Logan Council Member Tami Pyfer insisted they had; on Monday October 5th, Watts was specifically quoted as saying, "The Vernal City Council, after looking at it on YouTube, looked at it and dismissed it immediately. It never went anywhere with them"

However, it's now been reported that Vernal Mayor Allan Mashburn and Councilmen Bert Clark and Cal Dee Reynolds, who were in office in 2007 when the incident occurred, have all said they never viewed or even had knowledge of the video. But Vernal City Administrator Ken Basset allegedly told Logan Councilwoman Pyfer that he had seen the video (the Herald-Journal is attempting to follow up on this). Meanwhile. late on Tuesday October 6th, Watts contacted the Herald Journal to take the blame for any misinformation disseminated, but he still maintained that the Vernal council had reviewed some version of the video, perhaps not the original version, but “they saw something.” But later that evening, Watts conceded that in the heat of battle and the swirl of emotions following the revelation of the YouTube video, Jensen may have not been accurate in saying the council had reviewed the video.

Gary Jensen continues to maintain that he did not tell the mayor that the Vernal council viewed the video. His assertion would seem to be corroborated by a letter he sent to Mayor Watts after the initial controversy surfaced. The letter was published in full on October 5th in the Cache Valley Daily, in which he did not refer to the Vernal City Council.

It is no wonder that what was expected to be a slam-dunk vote in favor of Jensen's confirmation during the Tuesday council meeting has now been postponed until October 20th. This was also reported by the Cache Valley Daily. But the postponement is being marketed as a mechanism to allow things to air out and settle down so people can make a less emotional decision rather than as a loss of confidence in Jensen. The real issue is no longer the video, but the lack of correlation afterward. This is also becoming a campaign issue in Logan's upcoming election; challenger Mike Morrill has expressed his thoughts on this issue HERE. Morrill is Randy Watt's sole opponent in the race; a list of candidates is available HERE.

Support for Gary Jensen has materialized from another quarter, however. The Cache Valley Daily now reports that one of the "stars" in the "Vernal Ass-Whip" video has spoken out in Jensen's defense. David Wall of Grand Junction, CO, who wielded the nunchucks, said there should be no controversy surrounding Jensen's role in the video. "By no means did he just hand it (the nunchucks) over and say, 'oh here, go ahead and whack this guy," Wall said. "He said, 'here's my information in case there's any issues about this later.'" Wall further stated that the video that's been on YouTube since 2007 wasn't intended to make Jensen look bad.

Despite some critical comments about Jensen's tenure in Vernal appended to my previous post, the fact that an election campaign is taking place in Logan makes me wonder if most of this brouhaha is being manufactured in the normal course of "electioneering". But Randy Watts needs some close-order drill in public relations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ken Bassett the Vernal City Manager has not told Vernal City Council a lot of things. Like only two weeks ago he was interviewing officers to find out what they know about allegations of Jensen's inappropriate relationship with his secretary. None of them will discuss it because only one month ago an officer was let go who misused a department credit card. He was honest about his error but was fired in retaliation for mentioning that the chief had a lot of inappropriate things he did that were worse.