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State to investigate Centerville candidates

Published November 27, 2013 9:54 pm

Complaints • Allegations say pair failed to disclose spending; they deny wrongdoing.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The same day Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox's office officially closed its case against Attorney General John Swallow for not making required disclosures on campaign forms, it was asked to look into somewhat similar allegations against two winning candidates in Centerville city elections this year.

Ten residents — including George McEwan, a losing candidate for the City Council — had filed complaints with the city alleging that Mayor-elect Paul Cutler and City Councilwoman-elect Tami Fillmore omitted key expenses from disclosure forms, and asked to have the election overturned. Both candidates deny wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, City Recorder Marsha Morrow said in an email, "The city attorney and I have determined to forward them [the complaints] to the county attorney's office for investigation."

She added, "We were notified this morning that the county attorney's office has reviewed the complaints and is forwarding them to the lieutenant governor's office for initial review and investigation of election issues."

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Wednesday that he referred the matter to the lieutenant governor's office "first for its vetting, which is appropriate for campaign matters." He said if it finds anything possibly criminal, "we'll look at it."

Mark Thomas, state elections director for Cox, said the alleged violations appear to be in different sections of the law than Swallow's problems, and may not allow removal from office even if true. Rawlings said they could amount to class B misdemeanors.

Thomas said the matters initially sound far more minor than Swallow's problems.

A special counsel for the lieutenant governor ruled that Swallow intentionally omitted disclosing payments and ties to companies related to accusations of facilitating bribes, promising preferential treatment in exchange for donations, extortion and receiving improper gifts. The counsel said they were potentially serious enough to invalidate his election.

Cox, however, declined on Wednesday to forward the matter for court action, noting Swallow already has announced he will resign effective Dec. 3.

Meanwhile, complaints against Mayor-elect Cutler — obtained through an open records request by the Tribune — allege he did not disclose some ads nor spending for them. They also say — and forms show — he wrote "TBD," for "to be determined," and "ongoing" for amounts on some ads. Complaints said he should have known the amounts.

Complaints against Fillmore say she also did not report some spending, and also filed her financial report too early under city ordinance, and then amended it after reporting deadlines.

Thomas said state law allows amending reports in municipal races for inadvertent mistakes or oversights. He said state law also does not prohibit early reporting — and the lieutenant governor's office became involved in a lawsuit filed by McEwan before the election on that point, which McEwan later withdrew.

Cutler and Fillmore deny any wrongdoing, and also said previously that McEwan omitted disclosing some donors on his own form and is continuing "groundless accusations" made and dismissed in court before the election.

ldavidson@sltrib.com