Despite controversial policies during his tenure as mayor and criminal charges leading to his resignation, former mayor of Virgin, Utah Jay Lee is back in public office, and the town is split over the decision.
As mayor, Lee made headlines passing an ordinance requiring every homeowner in Virgin to possess a firearm, adopting a resolution against the United Nations in the community and charging residents $25 to speak at town council meetings. His divisive term ended abruptly in 2003 as he resigned after being accused of approving $18,600 in unearned pay to the former town clerk, Stacey Higbee.
Lee pleaded no contest to attempted misuse of public funds and guilty to the class A misdemeanor of witness tampering.
Mayor-elect and Virgin Town Council member of 11 years Bruce Densley said he has never seen Lee act with intent to defraud a person.
"As far as I am concerned Jay’s mistake, if there was a mistake, was he trusted the town clerk too much and as a result he was caught up in things, in the situation that would probably he would have done different otherwise," said Densley. "But I find him to be extremely honest and trustworthy; he’s the kind of person I would trust with a blank check.”
Lee was sentenced to one year in jail, but the sentence was stayed and he was ordered to complete 36 months probation instead.
Many people in the town claim the judge in Lee’s trial ordered Lee not to run for office again and are perplexed by his re-election. Lee reportedly told media he had his record expunged, leaving no trace of the incident.
Lee came in first place in the election for town council seats earlier this month with 103 votes.
"I think this shows that the people recognize Jay for the person that he is and the value that he offers to our community," said Densley. "He’s a real asset in my opinion.”
Lee is one of only two elected town council members in Virgin.