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Utah County shoo-in says mistakes help him be ‘more suited’

Elections » Candidate who ran on fighting debt has debt-ridden history.

First Published Apr 17 2014 03:55 pm • Last Updated Apr 18 2014 12:35 pm

A Springville Republican appears headed for a spot on the Utah County Commission, despite having several bankruptcies and a theft conviction on his record, which he says stemmed from a pair of auto accidents, a divorce and a misunderstanding with a former employer.

"We all have experiences we learn from and help us understand and help us to be more suited for things as we encounter them in the future," Greg Graves, the GOP nominee to the commission seat, said in an interview Thursday. "It’s never our intention to [file for bankruptcy] but circumstances sometimes dictate that. … Is it ideal? No, it is not, and I’ve suffered personally the consequences of it."

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Graves clinched the Republican nomination for Utah County Commission Seat A on Saturday, ousting incumbent Commission Chairman Gary Anderson and capturing nearly two-thirds of the delegate support at the Utah County GOP Convention.

There are no Democratic or third-party candidates vying for the seat, meaning Graves will be unopposed in November and presumably will coast to victory — barring a write-in campaign or other developments.

Casey Voeks, chairman of the Utah County Republican Party, who learned of Graves’ financial issues on Wednesday, said that all the candidates go through intense screening by the delegates and the information was public record and available to delegates and Graves’ opponents.

He said some have urged the party to replace Graves, but for now he is not planning to do anything like that.

"That might be wishful thinking from some people," he said. "There’s not really a precedent and I’m not interested in having a circus if it’s not necessary."

Graves said much of his financial turmoil started in 1995, when he was senior at Springville High. A car ran a red light, smashing into the car his friend was driving and ejecting him from the vehicle. He suffered some two-dozen skull fractures, and had to have his eye and jaw reconstructed. "I probably should have died," Graves said.

The incident left him with a huge amount of medical debt and he used credit cards to try to stay afloat. Ultimately, in May 2001, he filed his first bankruptcy.

A year earlier, he was charged with a class B misdemeanor. Graves said that, as a manager at a Target, he used the wrong button to give discounts. Graves said the judge saw that he didn’t gain anything from the discounts and dismissed the case and had it expunged.

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The docket for the case indicates that Graves apparently entered a sort of plea in abeyance. He pleaded guilty to a class C misdemeanor and had a seven-day jail sentence suspended when he paid a $75 fine. The case was dismissed a year later. Other records for the case were destroyed in 2008, as is normally done.

Graves’ second bankruptcy was filed in 2008, after going through a divorce. Graves said his ex-wife had debt-collection actions against her and the only way to avoid creditors coming after him was to file for bankruptcy.

Court records show he wasn’t working at the time and had about $75,000 in student loan, credit card and medical debt.

Graves’ most recent court case was filed last October by a collection agency. Graves said he was involved in a second car accident two years ago, his back was hurt and there were expenses that resulted and one of the bills fell through the cracks. He said it was paid by the insurance company six weeks ago.

A key part of Graves’ platform was reducing Utah County’s debt. At the top of his Graves’ website it reads: "Why I’m Running for County Commissioner: We have a debt problem!"

Graves said a few delegates asked about the court records, and he answered them truthfully and he assumes it wasn’t an issue for them.

gehrke@sltrib.com Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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

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