Congressional candidate lands in spat over unpaid child support

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Democrat Darren Parry, candidate in the 1st Congressional District, at a May 1, 2019 event.

Democratic 1st Congressional District candidate Darren Parry says he rarely missed paying child support for his seven children — and that state legal action seeking to collect $70,000 in arrears resulted from a misunderstanding. His ex-wife now says that’s false.

“It wasn’t truthful,” Michele Parry says. “He did pay some partial payments and sporadic payments” before she signed a document at his request that helped release him from unpaid support. She adds she signed simply wanted to end dealings with him and move on with her life.

Parry, who is seeking the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Rob Bishop against Republican nominee Blake Moore, disputes this claim and says some evidence backing him is that, “I don’t think she would have left that much money on the table.”

The dispute arises after The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a profile of the candidate — in which it asked him to explain four child support liens the state sought against him, which the newspaper discovered during a routine background check that it conducts on major candidates.

He said that resulted from a misunderstanding because he was paying child support directly into a bank account of his ex-wife, not knowing she had set up a procedure in which he was supposed to make payments instead through the Office of Recovery Services.

Parry said earlier that he didn’t know about that “until I got a summons to court and the judge said, ‘Tell me why I shouldn’t throw you in jail for being $70,000 in arrears. And I’m going, what…? My wife actually had to write a letter to ORS saying he’s been paying, but there was a misunderstanding.”

Michele Parry says that is false, and she was upset when she belatedly saw the story.

“He was not truthful,” she says, “and I felt like it made me look bad.”

She says she never sent a letter to ORS saying that it was all a misunderstanding. “He made three or four payments to me directly, which I reported,” she adds.

Michele Parry says when they divorced 16 years ago, she was a part-time teacher with seven children at home and child support was sporadic. Later, she says, she signed documents at his request that helped release him from accrued debt after some children had grown and left, and she was a school administrator making enough that she felt she didn’t need the child support.

“I just wanted to go a different direction,” she says.

Because of disputes now, she wrote in an email Monday that she is seeking a copy of the document she signed. She said a court clerk also “explained that by signing, I released him of all past and future alimony payments. I also called ORS. After I signed that document, any alimony payments he had already made were applied to his back child support. This was to help clear him of all the back payments he owed.”

The candidate says he essentially is sticking to his original story, although he says he “settled up” with his wife to help end legal action against him by the state for unpaid child support.

“I had been making regular payments. I do know that,” he says. “Did I miss a payment? I may have. But I paid most of them.”

He says he did not mean to imply that his wife was not truthful, but that problems had come simply because of ways that payments were set up with ORS — about which he says he was never notified.

“At the end, she just said that she was willing to settle with me so I could move on with my life,” he says. “I don’t think I owed the vast majority of it [as claimed in state lawsuits]. I just don’t feel that way. And I don’t think she felt that way or she wouldn’t sign off on it…. I just remember it differently, that’s all.”

Despite the dispute, Michele Parry emailed, “I wish him nothing but the best in his campaign; however, he needs to be truthful.”

Parry has had two divorces and is in a third marriage. He is the former chairman of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone tribe and stepped down from that post to run for Congress. He says he is still on the tribe’s council and works for it seeking to raise money for an interpretive site at the Bear River Massacre location.