Salt Lake County GOP forms ethics committee in response to harassment allegations

Party leaders promised to do better in responding to such complaints in the future.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) A Republican delegate holds a flyer featuring Central Committee members and their attendance rates at the Salt Lake County Republican Party organizing convention, April 13, 2019, at Cottonwood High School. The party's executive committee decided to create an ethics advisory committee and invited people with complaints to come forward.

The Salt Lake County Republican Party is forming an ethics advisory committee in the wake of multiple women alleging leadership took no action to address their complaints of harassment and bullying.

Former GOP Chair Scott Miller resigned Sunday in the wake of a Salt Lake Tribune story about complaints that he did nothing to stop inappropriate behavior by his communications director, Dave Robinson, during his tenure at the helm of the party. He also sent out an email to Republican delegates denigrating the women who came forward with allegations, questioning their motives. Miller later apologized in the face of widespread condemnation, including from Gov. Spencer Cox and state lawmakers from Salt Lake County.

Miller is still continuing his bid to lead the state party despite the allegations and uproar.

The decision to form the ethics committee was made by the county Republican Party’s executive committee during an emergency meeting Monday night that was closed to the public.

A statement released by party Vice Chair Scott Rosenbush also repeated his defense of party leadership beyond Miller.

“Recent accounts have accused the Salt Lake County Republican Party officers and the Executive Committee of inaction on some complaints,” the news release said. “To correct the record — when the first official complaint was received by the Executive Committee, it took immediate action.”

According to the release, the committee made “multiple” requests of Miller to see that the inappropriate behavior was addressed and stopped. It also invited anyone within the party who had similar concerns to submit a formal complaint.

“The executive committee took these complaints very seriously and discussed them at length,” continued the release. “As a result of that meeting the executive committee believed the situation would be remedied.”

Several women contacted by The Tribune for the original story described a toxic culture that was not adequately addressed by party leadership, including Miller. Rosenbush, the vice chair and now acting chair, 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.

Rosenbush could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“Any individual who comes forward should feel safe and know their concerns will be addressed in a timely and proper fashion,” the county party stated. “The executive committee will be vigilant in continuing to protect the dignity and rights of all people.”