Utah’s Lt. Governor cleared in criminal investigation
Child custody case • Lieutenant governor did not commit any crimes, Davis County attorney concludes.
Published: August 8, 2013 01:18PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:32PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Lt. Governor Greg Bell

The Davis County attorney has found that Lt. Gov. Greg Bell did not commit any crimes when he became involved in a child custody case.

In a letter released Thursday morning, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings writes that his office looked into allegations of misconduct, but found nothing criminal. As a result, Rawlings will not prosecute Bell.

Rawlings’ investigation involved about 40 interviews and looked at thousands of pages of documents. The FBI also assisted in the investigation, which was prompted by Bell allegedly becoming involved in a friend’s Utah Division of Child and Family Services case.

Bell released a brief statement Thursday, but did not comment on the investigation or Rawling’s letter.

“Our duty as elected officers is to ensure constituents are well-served by administrative processes,” Bell wrote in his statement. “My actions were to simply insure the integrity of the process and that DCFS complied with the law.”

The case began when a man Bell formerly home-taught in his Mormon church ward contacted him in 2011 with complaints about DCFS. Documents obtained by The Tribune earlier this year show that the man felt DCFS had abused its power. The man’s adult daughter was the subject of the case, and at one point he referred to the organization as a “renegade agency” staffed by “bullies.”

Bell referred the case to Palmer DePaulis, who at the time ran DCFS and reported that case was being handled correctly.

However, over time Bell became aware of what he characterized in February as “conflicting claims” about the case. In response, Bell pulled in two state-employed auditors from unrelated agencies to look at DCFS policy. The audit began in mid-2011 and wrapped up in 2012.

The documents obtained fromThe Tribune records request suggest that Bell was initially troubled by the man’s allegations against DCFS. However, Bell and the man later seemed to come to divergent conclusions, according to the documents.

“The views [held by the man and DCFS] are completely opposed and not to be reconciled,” Bell wrote in an email to the man.

In a later email, Bell took a similarly neutral position, writing that the case ultimately demonstrated the “difficulty of managing hard situations.” During a January 2012 hearing, the man also testified during a court hearing concerning the case that Bell was no longer going to help him.

The audit itself has been publicly released, but many of its findings were redacted. However, it did prompt DePaulis to write a letter in December 2012 saying he felt that Bell had lost confidence in him. DePaulis also wrote that he felt pressured to retire. He retired in June.

The audit eventually sparked Rawlings’ investigation. In February, Rawlings wrote that he was looking into allegations of abuse of government power and money. He also said the audit may have been “outside the scope of legitimate authority” and intended to “thwart the outcome of a singular child abuse case.”

But his Thursday letter, Rawlings explains that the audit was “broader in scope than just one case.” Moreover, Bell didn’t benefit personally from the audit, nor did the audit improperly use government funding. The family that contacted Bell also didn’t benefit, the letter adds.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii