Drunk City Councilman Claims He Is "Protected"
West Jordan, Utah- Witnesses and police officers described city councilman Jeff Haaga as extremely intoxicated when he was witnessed hitting a parked car in a West Jordan parking lot Tuesday evening, July 19. South Jordan police officer Marc Wright reported “Jeff was visibly intoxicated and I could smell alcohol on his breath from about four feet away”.
At approximately 7 p.m. on July 19, West Jordan Police officers received a call about a hit and run and possible DUI. When officers arrived at the local pub, witnesses claimed that an intoxicated Haaga was involved in an accident but had fled the scene. Realizing that the suspect was a West Jordan City Councilman, West Jordan Police department turned the case over to the South Jordan Police Department.
In an official statement from West Jordan City Hall, the city acknowledged the alleged accident and stated, “Because of the potential conflict of interest, the West Jordan Police Department asked the South Jordan Police Department to handle the case. This is standard procedure when an elected official is involved”.
The City Journals made several attempts to contact Councilman Haaga but were unable to contact him and messages were not returned.
Witnesses claim that Haaga had been drinking at the local pub and was obviously intoxicated. Employees of the pub and customers attempted to intervene when Haaga attempted to leave the bar, offering him an Uber or a ride personally. Haaga was reluctant to accept, but was finally convinced and was given a ride home by another patron.
After Haaga was safely driven home, witnesses claim that they saw Haaga return to the parking lot for his 2011 Hyundai Elantra. Employees and patrons then witnessed Mr. Haaga reverse out of his parking spot and hit a parked car.
According to the police report witnesses said that Haaga then exited the car and stumbled around and appeared “obviously intoxicated”. After Haaga got back in the car, two bystanders took his keys out of the ignition, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving.
Using a second set of keys, Haaga started the car and left the parking lot before police could arrive.
South Jordan Police Officers located Haaga at his residence, sitting in a chair on the front porch, which West Jordan Police Department had under surveillance, presumably to prevent the intoxicated councilman from leaving.
Officer Bowman of the South Jordan Police Department made the following remarks in his police report, “(Haaga) showed many signs of being intoxicated, his speech was slow and labored, and he was talking in circles, repeating himself. Jeff said many things that did not make sense, and frequently lost his train of thought”.
Police officers interviewed the councilman for over an hour and ultimately cited him for failure to remain at the scene of an accident. Body cam footage from this interview show the drunk councilman, not only showing classic signs of intoxication, but also making false claims, telling lies, and attempting to provoke special privileges as a city councilman.
At one point in the interview Haaga claims the South Jordan Police officers did not have the authority over him.
During the initial interview Haaga who claimed he had two beers at the bar and nothing else to drink, stated that he was not even aware that he had hit another vehicle. Body Cam video and photos taken by officers clearly show damage to his car.
Throughout the interview Haaga attempts to pivot the conversation away from the accident to discuss the events when his keys were taken from him, what he describes as “an assault on a city councilman”.
Haaga claims that earlier in the day he went to the local bar for lunch, claiming that he had wings and two beers. He then claims that patrons and employees of the bar targeted him because they knew he was a city councilman. Haaga claimed that these patrons and employees then assaulted him and stole his keys, “it was their opinion that I was drunk”.
Police reports state “Jeff was adamant that he wanted to file charges of assault on the individual that took his keys. He said that it is the same individual that gave him the ride home the first time”, Jeff also claimed that this person was a “great person”.
During the interview with South Jordan Police Officers, Hagga claime he was “protected” because of his status of city councilman, he even made claim that assaulting a city councilman was a felony. South Jordan Police corrected him, informing him that an assault is class B misdemeanor. Police officers stated that there were no signs of any assault on the councilman.
City Councilman Jeff Haaga was cited for Hit and Run or leaving the scene of an accident. He was not cited nor charged for DUI, making a false police report, or any other crime that may have been committed that evening.
Lieutenant Pennington of the South Jordan Police Department gave some explanation as to why the Councilman was not cited for DUI, stating “when there is a lapse in time from the actual driving and the driver is no longer in control of the automobile, we are generally hesitant in pursuing a DUI.”
When staff from the City Journals attempted to talk to witnesses, they declined stating that the Councilman had threatened to sue them. In the past other city council members, employees of the city, and members of city administration have accused the councilman of bullying, often by threatening to sue and in at least one case serving notice.
The West Jordan City Journal will continue to follow the case and any further investigations, and will update the citizens as new information comes forward.