When Hubert Huh received a call Aug. 6 from his state representative, Jeffrey Stenquist, reminding him of the 5 p.m. deadline for filing a campaign finance disclosure form, Huh, a Draper City Council candidate, sped as fast as he could to City Hall.
Arriving at 5:01 p.m., the city recorder told him he was too late and would be disqualified from the race. The deadline was 5 p.m.
“I was totally shocked,” Huh said Monday in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “I was speechless, I was motionless, I almost collapsed.”
About a month before the forms were due, Hubert and the other candidates received a letter from the city recorder’s office telling them the deadline to submit their disclosure forms was Aug. 8, two days after the actual deadline.
As soon as the recorder’s office realized the error, it sent another mailed letter and an email to all candidates correcting the mistake, Draper spokeswoman Maridene Alexander said.
Though Huh read both letters and replied to the email, he said he got the dates confused on his calendar and did not remember the form was due Aug. 6 until Stenquist, his neighbor, called to ask if he had dropped the form off.
Though Huh was only a minute past deadline, Alexander said the city follows state code strictly, which requires a finance disclosure form be turned into the clerk or recorder’s office by 5 p.m. the day it is due.
The recorder advised Huh to appeal the decision to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, but Huh said he spoke to a representative from the office the next day and was told the decision is in the hands of the city.
Huh then spoke to Draper Mayor Troy Walker, who said the city has no choice but to disqualify him and his best option is to appeal the decision in court.
“I think this punishment is too harsh for me,” Huh said. A Utah Transit Authority driver, Huh said his busy work schedule left little time to campaign and between campaigning and working, he forgot the deadline until it was already upon him.
It wasn’t the first time Draper City has had an election deadline controversy. Five years ago, the city waited until 4:58 p.m. — two minutes before deadline — to tell a ballot initiative group they were being disqualified after it had spent months gathering signatures. (That dispute ended well for residents, though, when they appealed and, without an attorney, argued their own case before the state Supreme Court and won.)
Born in South Korea, Huh said he wanted to bring diversity to the city council. Because the city does not use districts and instead uses an at-large system, Huh said he feels residents on the west side of the city are often forgotten.
“I wanted to bring in a district system so city members can be represented equally,” he said.
Though the primary election is Tuesday, Huh said he is considering hiring an election lawyer to appeal the decision in court, at the advice of his state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton.
“I feel like I have a duty to try and help him understand his legal remedies,” McCay said. “You hate to have somebody disqualified after months of campaigning on a technicality.”
One of Huh’s opponents, Fred Lowry, sent him a string of text messages encouraging him to appeal the decision and verbalizing support.
“I really think you can make a strong argument on that. She did send a follow up email and letter clarifying the date. But, you should be able to clarify the confusion,” a text message from Lowry reviewed by The Tribune reads.
After Huh’s disqualification, there are now 11 candidates seeking three open seats on the Draper City Council.