Scott Miller is still in the race to lead the Utah Republican Party despite his hasty resignation under pressure as the head of the Salt Lake County GOP over the weekend.
Miller stepped down as chair of the county party following an explosive report from The Tribune alleging harassing and bullying behavior during his tenure as chairman. He also sent out an email to delegates and others disparaging and dismissing the more than half dozen women who had come forward with complaints — apologizing only after The Tribune story and widespread condemnation from Republican elected leaders and others.
“The issues over the past several days are unfortunate and deserve our immediate attention,” said Miller in an email statement to The Tribune.
Several women in the county party, from elected officials to candidates to volunteers, described a toxic culture that they say Miller failed to adequately address.
Miller disagreed with that assessment.
“Although I immediately addressed and to my understanding, resolved every issue brought to me during the 2020 campaign season, it is clear the Salt Lake County GOP and the State GOP desperately need formal practices and [harassment] policies in place. As Chairman of the Utah GOP I will immediately implement practices and policies in compliance with Utah law. I will also request all County GOP Chairs to implement the same,” he said.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton doubts Miller’s bid for state party chairman will withstand the weight of the allegations against him, and party delegates will be reluctant to elect him.
“We have a great group of state delegates right now and I believe them to be supportive of women,” Newton said in a text message. “When I ran for governor and took third place out of seven, it was this same group who voted. I would be shocked if they supported Miller for state party chair now that this has all come to light.”
Yet, Miller is undaunted and said he is determined to press ahead with his candidacy.
“I look forward to addressing these issues with the direct input from Governor [Spencer] Cox, Lt. Governor [Deidre] Henderson, Chairman Derek Brown, and Utah voters,” he said.
His campaign website, chairmanmiller.com, describes Miller as “your successful advocate who gets it done.”
The allegations of bullying, name-calling, body-shaming and threats were aimed at Dave Robinson, communications director of the county party. But the women alleged that Miller’s only response, when he did respond at all, was to defend and support Robinson, often by dismissing inappropriate behavior or comments as “Oh, that’s just Dave.”
Asked about the allegations in an interview with The Tribune on Thursday, Miller said: “So apparently you’re interested in the internal squabbling of our party. It’s squabbling — that’s what it is.”
Robinson told The Tribune on Monday that he is no longer working for the county party as a volunteer. He said the party released all of its volunteers a few weeks ago.
He did not mention his departure in a 2½-hour interview Thursday at The Tribune offices with Miller also participating. And as recently as Friday, Miller referred to Robinson as “my Communications Director” and “one of my volunteers.”
Miller is one of three declared candidates so far vying to replace outgoing state GOP chairman Derek Brown who announced earlier this month that he was not seeking another 2-year term. The other two are Carson Jorgensen and Stewart Peay.
Jorgensen, a rancher and small business owner, unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Chris Stewart for the GOP nomination in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020. Peay, an attorney and a former Army Intelligence officer, is currently the chairman of the Utah County GOP. He was among the throng of Republicans vying to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz when he abruptly resigned from Congress in 2017 but did not advance out of the party nominating convention.
“I would be really surprised if Miller is still running, particularly in light of what was just made public about him, and the fact that he then resigned altogether in response,” Brown said in a text message prior to Miller’s announcement he was staying in the race.
“Allegations of sexual harassment are very serious. There is no room for sexual harassment or bullying inside of the Utah Republican Party,” said Jorgensen. “The Utah GOP must immediately review its policies. We must ensure these types of allegations are treated seriously and due process is served.”
Jorgensen added the party must have a formal, outside investigation into the allegations against Miller and Robinson.
The filing deadline for candidates to join the race is Wednesday at 5 p.m. Delegates will elect a new chair at the state GOP convention April 30.
Utah’s state Republican Party has elected a woman as chair only once — Enid Mickleson — a former congresswoman who was elected as interim chair for a several month period in 2007.
The pair of candidates vying to replace Miller as the head of the county party both condemned his handling of the allegations, and vow to make changes if they succeed him.
“It was wrong of Scott Miller to dismiss these allegations brought up against him. The harassment and bullying that took place against the women in the Salt Lake County Republican Party was unacceptable,” said conservative writer and blogger Andrew Langford, adding he finds that sort of behavior unfortunate and would not tolerate it if he’s elected.
Chris Null says Miller’s resignation was the right choice so the party can move forward.
“I will immediately create a conduct review committee to address the procedural failures that led to the current situation,” said Null. “My stance is clear. This type of behavior is unacceptable and anyone in a position of authority should never allow it to continue.”
The county party’s executive committee was organizing an emergency meeting Monday evening where members planned to discuss policies to prevent harassment. Vice-chair Scott Rosenbush is currently heading the county organization as acting chairman.
Rosenbush was contacted by at least one of the Republican women alleging harassment by Robinson — former county recorder candidate Erin Preston. The vice chairman occasionally replied with advice, text messages shared with The Tribune show, but Robinson’s harassing behavior continued, Preston said, even after she told him to stop contacting her. She said she never received a response from Miller.
In a news release Sunday accepting Miller’s resignation, Rosenbush said the party’s executive committee already had been planning to meet with Miller to discuss the allegations brought forward.
“Potential actions of the Committee ranged from discussion to censure to the potential for removal from office,” Rosenbush said. “His resignation was received before the meeting.”
The vice-chairman defended the actions of the executive committee, saying when it received complaints it “made multiple efforts to have the Chair see to it that the behavior ended. … The Executive Committee took these complaints seriously and discussed them at length in a closed Executive Session. As a result of that meeting the Executive Committee believed the situation would be remedied.”
Delegates will pick a new county party chair at their party organizing convention April 10. The filing deadline to run for county chairman is Thursday at 5 p.m.