Sponsors of a referendum to undo a high-density zone change in Stansbury Park were successful in collecting enough signatures to get the rezone on the November ballot.
But now some signature gatherers are facing a criminal investigation into the process used to verify signatures.
Within the 45-day statutory period, a total of 3,428 signatures were gathered by volunteers on the petition for the referendum to repeal the Tooele County Commission’s decision to rezone 5.38 acres of property on the southwest corner of Clubhouse Drive and Country Club Drive from commercial shopping and single-family residential to R-M-15.
The change allows for high-density development of up to 15 housing units per acre.
A total of 629 signatures were disqualified because they either weren’t registered to vote, were duplicates, were unreadable, or for other errors, according to a report by Tooele County Clerk/Auditor Marilyn Gillette.
That left 2,799 valid signatures. With 2,749 signatures needed, signature gatherers were ahead of the required number by 50 signatures.
Each referendum, or petition packet, requires a verification signature by a person who has witnessed the signature of people whose signatures are included in that packet.
After the referendum packets were turned in to Gillette, Derald Anderson, the applicant for the rezone who is the subject of the petition, informed Gillette that he had a videotape of people signing the referendum and the people who signed the verification statement for that referendum packet were not present to witness some of the signatures.
Gillette informed Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead and according to Tooele County Sheriff Paul Wimmer, Broadhead turned the matter over to him for an investigation.
State code reads: “It is unlawful for any person to sign the verification for a referendum packet knowing that … (b) he has not witnessed the signatures of those persons whose names appear in the referendum packet.”
The state code goes on to say: “Any person violating this part is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. The code also specifies that “the county attorney or municipal attorney shall prosecute any violation of this section.”
A Class A misdemeanor is the highest classification of misdemeanor that can be punished by a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $2,500, according to Utah Courts.
Wimmer has confirmed that detectives from his office are conducting an investigation.
But Rachel Torzillo, one of the referendum’s sponsors, said, “There was no forgery involved. There was no intent to do anything illegal. We just wanted to give the voice back to the people to make the decision about the rezone.”