Letter to the Editor: Investigative Reporting and Millard County Politics

Dear Editor,

I realize that, despite the best efforts of the Millard County Chronicle Progress, most people do not exactly consider Millard County, Utah to be the epicenter of the West.  And although it was once the editorial headquarters for the Rangefire blog, unlike MCCP and its readers, the small town of Kanosh, Utah (located in Millard County) may not really mean much to most Rangefire readers.  But it’s hard to say who might be most willing to take a deeper dive into this subject matter. Even though my family and I left the area a year or two ago on a bus in search of greener pastures (and have been fortunate enough to find them), I still try to keep some finger on the pulse of what appears to be perpetually dysfunctional government and politics in Millard County and good ol’ Kanosh.

For a time in our national history it used to be said that The Press was essentially the “Fourth Estate” or fourth branch of government – the accountability branch.  Although that doesn’t really seem to be the case much anymore, and rarely seems to have previously been the case in Millard County, it looks like that may be changing, and there may be reason for hope.  In that regard, I have to say that I have been delighted with the latest reporting on the scandal involving the Millard County landfill employees.  I have to commend Shellie Dutson at the Millard County Chronicle Progress for hiring Matt Ward and making him editor.  As far as I can see, he may be one of the best things that’s happened to Millard County in recent memory.  And this looks like one of the hottest stories and one of the biggest deals/scandals in Millard County in at least the last five years.  And now it’s supposed to be Communications Fraud?! Really! It’s going to be interesting to see where this all ends up. 

It was interesting to note that Commissioner Dean Draper, who attempted to rebuke Mr. Ward, and go “on the record” to express his opinions about Mr. Ward’s reporting, including his view of the county’s actions, did so in his unofficial private, individual capacity, during the “public comment” portion of a county commission meeting.

And while I’m discussing local government and the press in Millard County, from what I understand things are really starting to heat-up in good ol’ Kanosh, that supposed bastion of goodness, uprightness, and virtue. 

To really explore what’s going on right now and why,  I’d love to see someone do some serious investigative reporting about the current players in Kanosh Town government.  It was a no brainer things would get interesting when Frank Paxton was elected mayor, and made Ed Phillips chairman of the planning commission.  The question is, who is really in charge?  The town council?  Frank Paxton?  Or Ed Phillips?  Who’s actually running the show?

What I would love to see someone delve into is the real story behind the relationship between Frank Paxton and Ed Phillips. Anyone who has ever talked to Frank knows that he is the son of Taft Paxton, who once owned the largest ranch in Kanosh, and perhaps all of Millard County.  According to some (including Frank), it was the biggest ranching operation in South/Central Utah.  Anyone who has ever talked to Frank has certainly heard all of that.  And, from what I understand (from Frank), at some point Taft tried to get Frank set up with a separate outfit in Nevada.

But when things didn’t work out for Frank in Nevada, he came back home to Kanosh.  And that’s where things really get fuzzy.  What I really want to know, for example, is if it is true that Frank was convicted of felony aggravated assault for trying to kill Taft’s ranch manager with a shovel so that he could take over management of the home ranch?  If that is the case, how did he end up becoming a deputy in the Millard County Sheriff’s department? It’s like everything was wiped clean. So what, if anything, did Ed Phillips have to do with that?  Besides doing a big favor for the biggest big shot in Kanosh by giving his son, Frank, a safe, secure and fool-proof job, what kind of strings did Ed have to pull to get Frank’s alleged record cleared and get him certified as a LEO? How much might Frank owe Ed for saving his bacon and giving him career employment? 

More importantly, has this whole thing now come full circle?  How does all this affect the current state of affairs in Kanosh town government?  What I really want to know is how Frank Paxton got elected mayor?  Have that many old timers, who know the history, passed on? The current population had the choice between electing a very conscientious public-service oriented woman, who was a move-in (and wife of a former mayor) but had lived there for at least 20 years and had two decades to prove herself,  or a busy-body, blow-hard good ol’ boy, with serious alleged skeletons and cover-ups in the closet, who may be nothing more than a puppet tyrant.  But the good people of Kanosh, unknowingly chose the overbearing tyrants.  At this point the entire town council may be little more than a puppet government, which increasingly may not even be given a say on fundamental legislative policy decisions. And apparently Frank refuses to recuse himself even when he has conflicts of interest based on obvious personal biases. But from what I can see from current court records, things are really starting to heat up and get interesting with Ed and Frank in power.  What I learned from personal observation while I lived in Kanosh and worked with them is just how petty and vindictive they can be. I wish someone would take a deep dive into that whole story, and do some serious investigative reporting.   It would undoubtedly make for some very interesting reading.

Just wishful thinking?  I hope not. 

Sincerely,

JT Longfellow

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