Reporter's Notebook: Power in Utah | Buzz Blog
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Reporter's Notebook: Power in Utah



This week’s City Weekly cover story has been six months in the making, dating back to June, when I first heard about concerns relating to Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell’s use of his position to pursue an agenda relating to a friend.---

As the story unspooled, it became clear that Bell had a passionate sense of commitment to the issues that his friend brought to him. While some argue that Bell took the lessons he had seen as a senator on how to use audits when you don’t like an agency with him to his current post, others saw a man appalled by the power of a state agency to interfere in the lives of Utah’s citizens.

One source for this story made a comment that stayed with me throughout this story, which was that, in essence, if you are white, Mormon and know the right politician, you can get him or her involved in your DCFS case. If you’re a minority, forget it.

A few years ago, I followed a case involving a Hispanic grandmother from Mexico, who for months battled the implacable face of DCFS and the juvenile-court system to take her nieta (granddaughter) back to Mexico. (See CW cover story "Gone Baby Gone")

Since that story, which also unraveled in Davis County, there has been a memorandum of understanding between the Consulate of Mexico and DCFS relating to efforts by both parties to take children of deported Mexican parents to relatives in Mexico. However, attorneys I have spoken to in the past argue that the issue of white, Mormon families adopting the children of deportees is one that has flown under the radar, and that the number of kids swallowed up by Utah families—with few, if any, attempts made to reach out to Mexican relatives—is disturbingly high.

This story on Bell’s “interest” in a DCFS case inevitably harkens back to the harsh rhetoric that spouted from such high-profile cases as Parker Jensen’s. But here, ultimately, the issue is surely what was the intent of the audit Bell had done on the case, and whether that intent fell within the demarcations of his authority.

What links my Mexican grandmother story to Bell’s audit is power. The grandmother had none and finally went back home alone; Bell’s friend, by virtue of his ward connection, was able to get agency heads to jump to attention.