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Provo councilman Steve Turley faces felony charges

Published July 28, 2011 11:32 am

Probe • Charges are related to Turley's business dealings.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo Municipal Councilman Steven Turley was charged Wednesday with 10 felonies, including communications fraud and exploitation of a vulnerable adult, for allegedly taking money and property from several people in order to illegally obtain more property.

The charges were the result of an "exhaustive investigation" conducted by Richard Hales, a Utah County attorney's investigator, that purports to show Turley, 43, committed a number of crimes between July 1, 2006, and December 2009, according to documents filed in 4th District Court.

In one instance in 2006, Turley allegedly had homebuyers sign a purchasing agreement that raised the offering price of a home he was building for them to $265,000 but promised them the final price would be $172,000, charging documents state. He then submitted the new purchasing agreement with the higher price to a bank and obtained an extension on the loan based on that price.

Between 2007 and 2008 in Springville, Turley allegedly had a mentally and physically impaired 64- or 65-year-old woman sign over the lease on her residence without providing her any compensation and without making her aware of what she signed, charging documents state.

Also in 2007, Turley was allegedly building two homes with attached apartments knowing the apartments didn't meet zoning regulations. However, he told the buyers that the apartments would be acceptable, charging documents state.

Again in 2007, Turley is alleged to have promised to deed a home to a person who had recently moved into a residence in Provo, but he failed to record the deed because he didn't have clear title to the home. Turley then listed the same home as an asset in a loan application.

In November 2007, Turley allegedly had a 65-year-old person sign a quit-claim deed on a property in exchange for another property Turley would give him in exchange. Turley never completed the property transfer and later took out a loan on the victim's original home, which has since gone into foreclosure, charging documents state.

Turley negotiated the re-opening of a Springville restaurant with a woman in 2008 and then leased the restaurant to another person, charging documents state.

In 2009, Turley allegedly showed a copy of a check for more than $2.6 million to a person's attorney and claimed the funds were available to him to purchase property. However, Turley didn't have the actual check or access to the funds represented, charging documents state.

Lastly, Turley allegedly negotiated a deal with a construction company to work at a "significant mining project in Slate Canyon," while telling residents and the Provo Municipal Council that the area wouldn't be used as a gravel pit and that he wasn't interested in profits. He later admitted he could profit from developing the land and lied about how much material was going to be removed from the site, charging documents state.

Turley faces seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of pattern of unlawful activity — all are second-degree felonies.

Provo Mayor John R. Curtis and Municipal Council members issued a letter late Tuesday afternoon calling for Turley's resignation.

"It's our belief that your ability to serve effectively as a member of the Municipal Council has been so compromised by these allegations that it would be in the best interest of you, your family and the city that you immediately resign from your position as a member of the council," the letter states.

The charges against Turley stem from a complaint filed with Curtis and the County Attorney's Office by 23 Provo residents who said Turley used his position for personal gain, failed to disclose conflicts of interest and had other ethical lapses.

Diane Christensen, one of the residents who filed the complaint, said Turley's actions finally caught up to him.

"Steve Turley has been saying for years, 'I'm a hard-charging businessman,' and we have had his cronies, including [former Utah County Republican Chairman] Taylor Oldroyd repeat that," Christensen said. "You don't get charged with 10 felonies for being a hard-charging businessman."

Curtis told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that if Turley doesn't resign, the city will begin an ethics investigation Monday.

"We owe it to our residents to respect the rules, and we, ourselves, should hold ourselves to a higher standard," Curtis said.

Turley has served on the council for 7 ½ years. He referred all comments to his attorney, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman.

Tolman told The Tribune that the complaints against Turley should be heard in civil court as business disputes, rather than in criminal court.

What is telling, Tolman said, is what Turley's not being charged with.

"These felonies are not related to his role as a City Council member," Tolman said.

He said there is no charge that he used his role as a council member for personal gain, as critics said he has done. He said Turley also cooperated with the County Attorney's Office during the investigation.

"If I were a businessman, I would be worried about doing business in Provo," Tolman said.

He also said the council's call for Turley's resignation appeared to be contradictory. On one hand, he said the council respected the presumption of Turley's innocence, but said the charges were staining him and the council.

Reporter Roxana Orellana contributed to this story.