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Draper to hire independent investigator to review councilwoman’s emails

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 03:51 pm


Email probe » Council colleagues target official over politics, she says.

The Draper City Council has authorized the city attorney to hire outside counsel to determine whether Councilwoman Michele Weeks violated any ethics rules or laws when she used a city employee to proofread emails unrelated to her official duties.

The decision continues discord between Weeks and the camp of four other council members and Mayor Troy Walker. She says the others have targeted her over political divisions ahead of her campaign to unseat Walker.

"They were just proofread emails," said Weeks, who has her emails read and edited because she has a learning disability known as dyslexia, which impedes spelling. "I said I made a mistake."




Walker and other council members wonder whether Weeks violated ethics rules by using city staff to help with emails in which she organized and raised money for a teacher-appreciation event she launched in 2016. They also took issue with a letter Weeks wrote for the city's newsletter that mentioned a Facebook page she created that she said helps residents easily track city government.

The council has weighed its options, sometimes publicly, prompting Weeks to hire former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to review the situation and warn other council members against making unsubstantiated allegations. Shurtleff had faced his own ethics charges, only to see them dismissed before trial.

The council Tuesday night voted to have Mike Barker, the city attorney, choose outside counsel who would review Weeks' emails and letter.

"This isn't just infighting. This isn't just an ax to grind or people that don't get along," said Councilman Jeff Stenquist, who has pushed for the investigation. "When I have citizens come to me and say I have evidence that this behavior occurred, to me, everything I've been told and taught says that's not legal, that's not ethical. I can't ignore it."

Stenquist provided some of Weeks' emails that he said a constituent sent him after obtaining them through a public records request. The Salt Lake Tribune's records request shows that the only inquiry for Weeks' emails came from Connie Atkisson, a trustee on the nonprofit Draper Community Foundation. Atkisson didn't respond to a request for comment.

Walker and other members of the City Council also didn't respond to requests for comment, including Councilman Alan Summerhays, who serves as a trustee for the Draper Community Foundation, IRS records show.

"You know what, I really don't have any comment," Councilwoman Marsha Vawdrey said.

Stenquist said city staff helped Weeks draft emails, not just edit them.

He included strings of emails that show Weeks' communication with the city prosecutor about an apparent ordinance violation involving one of her neighbors.

"The emails regarding the code violation shows how she interfered with a prosecution of someone she had a personal issue with," Stenquist said.

Another string involved a letter Weeks was writing to someone who she hoped would help get her in shape for a pageant competition.

"I am 48 years old, and with only a month left, am having trouble losing the weight for the swimsuit competition," Weeks wrote in a draft. "I would love to speak with you this week and discuss any discount options or for sponsoring me for Cool Sculpture."

The emails, which were also provided to The Tribune by the city recorder, don't make clear whether Weeks sent the letter as drafted, or whether she received free or discounted work.

Weeks said she sent the emails from her personal email address.

Weeks has called the allegations against her politically motivated. Come June 1, she says, she'll be a declared mayoral candidate in the November election.

tanderson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TaylorWAnderson

 

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