A front-page article by Judy Fahys in The Salt Lake Tribune July 30 was headlined "Utah legislator rips D.C. while raking in federal cash: As water director, Noel secures millions for the summer homes of out-of-staters."
A July 25 Tribune editorial on the Opinion page carried the headline "Tainted water: Mike Noel's conflicts of interest."
On Aug. 4, Tribune columnist Paul Rolly chastised me for appearing on Red Meat Radio without Fahys ("Rolly: Legislators circle wagons against media").
Rolly followed up on Aug. 11 with another column headlined "Partisan media dividing the country" in which he referred to me as "right-wing, self-serving Republican Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab," who "manipulates state boards, changed his title as the executive director and manager of the Kane County Water Conservancy District to that of private contractor for the district to avoid a possible Hatch Act violation, threatens public employees who publicly express views that differ from his," attacks the press and environmentalists, and "staged an illegal ATV ride in a federally protected wash in southern Utah... ."
Now if all of that bombastic hyperbole were true, which it is not, then Rolly's past assertion that I should be sharing a cell with bogus lease bidder Tim DeChristopher would have some merit.
On Aug. 25, Rolly and I went on the Red Meat Radio program to "set the record straight." On air, Rolly said I should respond in a guest editorial to the four pieces cited above. Here's the best I can do within the word limitations:
Paria Canyon ATV ride: I didn't organize the ride but attended. Was it illegal? According to fully armed Bureau of Land Management rangers, the road from Cannonville to Paria Town was not "formally" closed, and has been used for more than a century by citizens and BLM employees. Several months before the ride the BLM argued in federal court that Kane County couldn't file a quiet title on this and other roads because the agency had not formally closed them.
The BLM later argued in court for a 12-year statute of limitations on legal challenges to closure of RS2477 roads, with the starting date being the proposed closure in BLM planning documents. So, BLM closes roads on paper, then challenges the county's ability to present RS2477 evidence in court. The rally organizers told everyone that if federal law enforcement stopped us, the ride would be moved to Cottonwood Canyon.
Changed director title: For 15 years I have been the executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District. I am a 1099 employee who pays all of his self-employment taxes and works out of my own office.
Manipulates state boards: I have been applying for funds to correct water problems in Kane County as part of my contract for many years prior to becoming a state legislator. Funding is based on need, not personality or manipulation.
The Utah Drinking Water Board and the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board both formally notify state lawmakers when a project is being discussed. I attended the Zion's View meeting as the conservancy district's executive director. In the past I have attended funding meetings as a state legislator on projects not associated with the Kane water district. The Zion's View subdivision is the worst non-performing system in the state. The water district is fixing the problem and no one is forced to connect. Under federal law, CIB funds belong to the state.
Rolly stated on Red Meat that he believes that "Representative Noel is an honest man." Unfortunately, the many pejorative words ascribed to me by him and others at The Tribune such as "manipulates," "right-wing," "self-serving," "uses misinformation," "steers money," "antics," "staged an illegal ride," "spout off," "earn political stripes through hate talk," "threatens public employees," "attacks the press," "throws his weight around," "stares down anyone who challenges," "famous for low opinions" and "boasted" don't match up with the impression The Tribune presents to the public about me.
Rolly got it right that "partisan media are dividing the country." He just forgot to include The Tribune, which I believe is one of the worst offenders in our state.
Mike Noel represents District 73 in the Utah House of Representatives and is executive director and manager of the Kane County Water Conservancy District.