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Paul Rolly: Utah GOP boss seeks A.G. probe of mystery phone calls


| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jul 14 2014 06:52 am • Last Updated Jul 13 2014 09:41 pm

State GOP Chairman James Evans has asked the Utah attorney general’s office to investigate robocalls to Davis County Republicans that indicated they came from the state party.

The calls, directed to Davis County GOP precinct officers and delegates, asked if Phill Wright should continue as the county’s Republican chairman — even though he had not been a registered Republican for nearly the entire year that he has held that post.

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Evans says the calls weren’t authorized, but the caller ID indicates they came from the state GOP and shows the party’s official phone number. Evans says someone used the number remotely through software, and he wants the attorney general’s office to see if fraud has taken place.

Call it the latest chapter of "Utah Republicans Not Playing Well in the Sandbox Together."

A group of Davis County Republican Party Central Committee members planned to issue a request July 7 for an emergency committee meeting to elect a new leader on the assumption that Wright had not been a legitimate chairman and therefore the office was vacant.

But the night before, an attorney advising the group said the legal issue was muddy enough that there might not be grounds to declare Wright’s position invalid.

On Tuesday, the robocalls went out, presumably from party headquarters, leading to the suggestion that Utah GOP leaders were questioning Wright’s legitimacy.

Evans says he sent a letter to Davis County officers letting them know the state party had nothing to do with the calls and had asked the attorney general to investigate.

Meanwhile, at Thursday’s Davis County Republican Executive Committee meeting, the expected "Star Chamber"-type report on party secretary Kathleen Anderson didn’t occur.

The executive committee had authorized Wright to appoint a special panel to investigate Anderson to determine whether she should be ousted from office.

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Critics of that vote complained it was a deceptive way to get around party bylaws, which spell out the reasons and the procedures for removing a GOP officer.

The irony, of course, was that news later surfaced that Wright himself was ineligible to be chairman, according to the bylaws, because he had not officially been a registered Republican since fall 2012. He was elected chairman in summer 2013.

He discovered his unaffiliated status when he attempted to vote in last month’s GOP primary, and he registered as a Republican at that time.

Anderson, at Thursday’s executive committee meeting, read a prepared statement listing what she considered unethical and irresponsible actions by the county party’s leadership.

It marked the second time in barely a month that a party officer had taken on the party’s leadership.

Vice Chairwoman Lisa Bingham made similar accusations in a letter dated May 30 when she resigned her position.

Party bosses went after Anderson after she had signed the Count My Vote petition designed to change the candidate nominating system.

That, to them, was a sign of disloyalty.


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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