The former top lobbyist for local governments throughout Utah, who resigned in January amid a scandal over poor management and misuse of public funds, has joined Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s administration as a state Capitol lobbyist.
Ken Bullock, the longtime executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, was brought on by Biskupski to give the city “the strongest possible team when we go up to the Hill,” said mayoral spokesman Matt Rojas. “We’re bringing him on to do what he does best.”
Bullock started Thursday and will earn $105,500 a year. The taxpayer-funded group he formerly led worked on behalf of nearly 250 Utah municipalities, lobbying for their interests in the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C.
Bullock was credited over a decades-long tenure with building the organization into a potent and effective advocate for localities and their intergovernmental agendas. But he stepped down in January after a state audit confirmed findings, first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, that he had charged tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses to the organization. Bullock reimbursed the league but received what amounted to interest-free loans that paid for his air travel to California to see his son play college basketball.
That audit and another also turned up what auditors described as embezzlement by one of Bullock’s subordinates, as well as his use of a secret league trust fund to pay himself $80,000.
Rojas said Bullock will not be managing people or overseeing a budget in his new role and praised Bullock’s effectiveness as an advocate and lobbyist.
“Without question Ken made some bad decisions,” Rojas said. “We understand the actions he took to rectify those bad decisions. We understand that there was no criminal wrongdoing, and we recognize that people deserve a second chance.”
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, who supported Bullock’s hiring, called him a “bit of a bulldog” on Capitol Hill who “knew how to get things done” and was always “a good friend to Ogden.”
“I know there are still some question marks about how everything happened at the league,” Caldwell said. Bullock’s new role with Salt Lake, he said, “is going to be where I think his greatest strengths are. That’s lobbying on the Hill and building relationships and making sure initiatives get discussed and looked at.”
Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt, who was president of the league last year when the audits were conducted and released, also endorsed Bullock.
“Good for him,” Hiatt said. “We don’t have any hard feelings toward Ken. We know he’s a good lobbyist. He does a good job of advocating for issues, especially as it relates to local government.”
Biskupski also is bringing on a deputy mayoral spokesman behind Rojas. Paul Murphy, a television reporter and former spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power and the state attorney general’s office, starts Dec. 21 at a salary of $85,500.