Republican candidate for Salt Lake County’s top prosecutor spot will return campaign contributions after exceeding caps

(Al Hartmann | Tribune File Photo) Nathan Evershed is an assistant Salt Lake County district attorney. He announced Tuesday that he is running for election for district attorney, challenging his current boss, Sim Gill.

Nathan Evershed, the Republican candidate for Salt Lake County district attorney, will return at least $18,000 in campaign donations after being found in violation of contribution caps by the Salt Lake County clerk.

A review of Evershed’s disclosure forms, filed with the County Clerk’s Office, shows the candidate receiving three $6,000 contributions in October of last year from Roger Evershed, Paula Evershed and Rocky Mountain Engineering. Those initial contributions were subsequently repeated in April and July by all three donors, totaling $18,000 each, the documents show.

A Salt Lake County ordinance prohibits donations by an individual or corporation in excess of $6,000 between general elections.

“We believe that we were correct in it being $6,000 for the entire election year,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swenson said of her office’s interpretation of the ordinance.

On Wednesday, the Utah Democratic Party and Salt Lake County Democratic Party filed a complaint with the County Clerk’s Office challenging the donations.

“These violations demand action, and we respectfully request that the campaign finance requirements be enforced," the complaint states. “It is particularly troubling that these violations have occurred by a candidate who, if elected, would be charged with a critically important law enforcement function.”

The county ordinance creates three “election cycles" within a general election period, demarcated by the previous election, nominating convention, primary election and the following general election.

Nathan Evershed initially told The Tribune on Wednesday that the complaint was a “nothing-burger.” He said it was his understanding, based on discussions with experienced campaigners and his own reading of the ordinance, that a $6,000 donation is allowed in each of the three election cycles between general elections.

Under that interpretation, he said, the three donors had reached the cap of $18,000 and were no longer able to make additional payments to the campaign.

“From the beginning,” he said, “we have complied with the rules and with the language that’s outlined in the statute.”

Evershed confirmed that Roger Evershed and Paula Evershed are his parents, and that Rocky Mountain Engineering is his father’s company, and legally a separate entity.

In a prepared statement issued after Swenson’s decision, Nathan Evershed said he takes full responsibility and will immediately return the excess contributions.

“I am a career prosecutor, not a career politician,” he wrote. “The reporting laws are in place to ensure transparency, which I certainly support. I’m grateful this came to light ahead of any ballots being mailed out, so we can quickly correct it.”

Swenson’s order would require the return of at least $12,000 to each of the three donors, to meet or fall below the $6,000 maximum.

She said candidates have 10 days to return excess donations after being notified by her office. The ordinance does not specify what actions are to be taken if a candidate refuses to comply, she added.

Evershed’s most recent disclosure, filed with the county last week, shows the campaign having a balance of roughly $72,000.