Dr. Ed Redd has announced his decision to resign his position as deputy director of the Bear River Health Department.
A Republican candidate for Legislative District 4 in the Utah House of Representatives, Redd told The Herald Journal on Friday that the Hatch Act, a federal law, prohibits him from being a candidate in a partisan race and also continuing to work for the health department.
Redd is challenging fellow Republican David Butterfield, who has held that seat for the past term. The primary election is scheduled for June 26, and its winner will go on to face Doug Thompson, who is running as a Democrat.
In a June 4 letter to Lloyd Berentzen, the agency’s director, Redd wrote, “I regret to inform you that I am resigning from my position as clinical director and physician at the Bear River Health Department effective June 25, 2012. My decision to resign is in response to an advisory opinion issued by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C.”
Redd said his last day at the department as an employee will actually be June 19.
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state, county or municipal executive agencies that administer programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency.
Redd said the health department receives federal dollars for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and other programs.
The Bear River Health Department sought a formal opinion on the issue from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Mary K. Larsen, an attorney in the Hatch Act unit, followed up with an official advisory opinion, dated May 23. Her letter was addressed to Redd.
“According to information provided by Mr. Berentzen, the department receives numerous federal grants,” Larsen wrote. “We understand that you provide consultation and support services for at least 13 grants that are fully or partially funded by federal dollars, for example, tuberculosis elimination, substance abuse and bioterrorism.”
Larsen continued, “In addition, we understand that you provide direct services and supervision for at least three federally funded programs, i.e., emergency management services medical control, juvenile justice services, and community health centers. Lastly, we understand that you also provide patient counseling and prescription services to a private nonprofit mental health facility that reimburses the department for your services with federal Medicaid dollars.”
She added that Redd was thus covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act and thereby prohibited from being a candidate in a partisan election.
Asked Friday why he would resign prior to the June 26 Republican primary, Redd responded, “Because I don’t want to be disqualified. I don’t want somebody to come forward and disqualify me. What happens in these situations is people who are your opponents or don’t want you to win will bring this forward and get you in all sorts of trouble. I’m just going to be up front about it and stay out of trouble.”
In Redd’s resignation letter, he said he made the “difficult decision” to be able to continue campaign activities as a candidate for the Utah House of Representatives.
“By resigning, I will be able to comply with the restrictions of the Hatch Act and protect myself and the Bear River Health Department from the potential of large punitive fines and other negative legal ramifications,” Redd wrote.
Berentzen said that Redd’s resignation is “really unfortunate” for the department and a “real loss to public health.”
“He’ll be sorely missed in terms of being an employee of the health department,” Berentzen said. “He’s been able to be a spokesperson for a number of issues that have been really important public health kinds of issues. And so that part is going to be very difficult for us, and it really hurts us from that standpoint.”
Berentzen added that the department is looking into whether the agency can independently contract with Redd for certain clinical services.
“We have seven years invested into Dr. Redd as a public health physician; we’d just hate to lose that investment,” Berentzen said. “So we’re looking from a legal standpoint whether we can do that. We’re hopeful that we can still retain something with Dr. Redd to kind of maintain that relationship.”
Asked whether he would return to the health department if he lost the primary race, Redd responded he would be “very happy to go back.”
On that topic, Berentzen added, “I suspect he’s got a pretty good chance. In the event he doesn’t (win), that would be my first ambition would be to again get him back on board and continue forward. But in the event that he’s successful, then his (resignation) is pretty permanent at that point.”