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Rolly: Draper councilwoman’s big sin? She was a Dem who had the audacity to win on GOP turf

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 03:55 pm

It seems that in some parts of Utah, it is a cardinal sin to win an election if you happen to be a Democrat — even if your victory comes in a nonpartisan race.

A minor blowup occurred among city officials this week in Draper, hard-right Republican turf that is home to House Speaker Greg Hughes and strident conservative Sen. Howard Stephenson.

A letter sent to the City Council by former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff created a backlash from some council members and accusations that the offering amounted to intimidation or an implied legal threat.

The letter basically warned council members they should back off their public attacks on Michele Weeks, who was elected to the body in 2015, because their comments in public meetings suggesting unethical or possible illegal behavior by her were "unsupported public allegations" and shouldn't happen again.




Some council members responded that they would not be bullied by Shurtleff, and they have asked the city attorney to look into it.

But a little history of the "nonpartisan" council, a pretty tight-knit Republican club, and its relationship with Weeks, who had the audacity to run as a Democrat against Stephenson in 2014, reveals a culture that is downright weird.

First, let's start with the 2015 race in which Weeks was one of three candidates elected on the council while one incumbent member of the "club," Bill Colbert, was eliminated.

In the weeks before the balloting, Weeks was slimed with countless attacks on social media — including the Facebook page of Colbert — and in emails sent to Draper residents. She also came under fire in two mailers, one from an anonymous source that was stuffed into 3,000 mailboxes without going through the Postal Service and another mailed by the Utah GOP and signed by its chairman, James Evans.

She also was the target of negative comments on the conservative Saturday morning talk show "Red Meat Radio," which was started by Hughes and Stephenson. Both lawmakers are close political allies of Draper Mayor Troy Walker, an occasional guest host on that show.

The attacks centered on Weeks' husband, Kenneth Weeks, who was involved in a New York firm called Dynamic American in the 1990s that was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution.

That was before he and Michele were married. The case against him began before they even met. The Evans mailer tried to tie Michele Weeks to the case, but she put her name on an account shared with him only much later.

Since her election, the tension has never let up.

Weeks has complained that the council has disbanded a commission she oversaw, left her out of discussions in which agreements were reached and, most recently, accused her of unethical behavior.

During a council meeting in March, members accused her of misusing the city newsletter in which she posted a commentary and invited the public to visit her Facebook page, where she hosts a discussion on local issues.

Some members derided the post as a "political advertisement," and Walker said it may raise legal issues.

In February, a woman who sits on the Draper Arts Council and the Draper Community Foundation requested copies of all the emails Weeks has sent since she took office. No specific reason was given. Then, out of 1,554 emails she has sent, a several were found to be personal which she asked an office secretary to proofread. She was reprimanded for that.

In December, Walker called a staff meeting in which he accused Weeks of abusing city resources. She had asked a secretary to print a half-page school report for her son because her printer had broken. She offered to pay the city 10 cents for the copy, but her offer was refused.

In January, she received a letter from the council accusing her of not conducting herself professionally.

Last year, a lobbyist bought a table for Draper officials at the annual fundraiser of Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, which attracts politicians from both parties.

Weeks was one of the council members invited to attend. When she attempted to join her colleagues at the Draper table, she was told it was full and banished to sit elsewhere.

Weeks has since changed her voter registration from "Democrat" to "unaffiliated."

It has done her no good. She is still not forgiven for that original sin.

prolly@sltrib.com

 

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