Former Salt Lake County GOP boss Scott Miller ‘recants’ his apology, says he’s being ‘Kavanaughed’

He wants an investigation, but women who complained of a toxic culture see this as more signs of bullying.

(Photo courtesy of the Salt Lake County Republican Party) Scott Miller, who resigned as chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party amid allegations of a toxic and bullying environment in the party, says he regrets apologizing and insists he is being wrongly accused.

Scott Miller, the former Salt Lake County GOP chair who resigned amid allegations of a toxic and bullying environment in the party, now says he regrets apologizing for the matter and insists he’s being “Kavanaughed.”

Seven women came forward with stories of the county party’s then-communication director, Dave Robinson, using foul language, calling them inappropriate names and withholding campaign resources from candidates during the past election season. Some of the women said they sought help from Miller, but little was done.

Miller resigned less than 24 hours after The Salt Lake Tribune published its story outlining the women’s complaints late last month.

“I made a mistake with how I handled the complaints lodged by Republican women and my recent communications,” Miller wrote in a resignation statement March 28. “I’m sorry.”

Now, he is rescinding those words.

“I recant my resignation,” Miller said Thursday. “Unequivocally.”

He said a “high-ranking elected official,” whom he did not name, had persuaded him to “apologize and move on.”

“I didn’t want to do it,” Miller said. “I acquiesced to the experience of that elected official. And I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have listened to him.”

County Councilwoman Laurie Stringham, who earlier alleged she was told she had to continue working with Robinson on her campaign even after she raised concerns, said Miller and Robinson are trying to change the narrative.

“They’re trying to minimize what they did,” she said Thursday. “The more people call out this bad behavior and choose not to accept it, the less these people have power.”

Although he left his county GOP post, Miller remains in the running to become the party’s next state chair, whom delegates will select at their convention May 1. In an email to delegates April 17, Miller called for an investigation into the allegations against Robinson.

“Unfortunately, the Salt Lake County GOP and State GOP have not supported a 3rd-party investigation, even though Mr. Robinson has repeatedly requested such,” Miller wrote. “Do the State GOP and Salt Lake County GOP simply accept ‘guilt by accusation’ as they watch the feigned indictment play out in the press?”

The current state party chair, Derek Brown, declined to comment. But it’s unclear what authority the state party has to investigate a county party, since they’re separate organizations.

Chris Null, the recently elected county party chair, said Miller’s investigation request was unwarranted.

“The time to act was during the election cycle as the accusations first came to Mr. Miller, who was the current party chair and chose to shoulder that burden alone, months before the executive committee was made aware of the accusations,” Null said Tuesday in a written statement.

Miller released all of the county party’s volunteers, including Robinson, on Feb. 19.

“It is not within our jurisdiction,” Null wrote, “and any outcome would be non-actionable as none of the parties are directly associated with the Salt Lake County GOP” any longer.

Calls for an investigation

(Steve Griffin | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Shown in 2016, former Salt Lake County GOP communication director Dave Robinson, who has been accused of harassment, says people are out to "destroy my reputation and livelihood.”

For his part, Robinson has called as far back as Feb. 4 on multiple groups, including county Mayor Jenny Wilson and the County Council, to investigate his accusers, according to emails shared with The Tribune. His appeals for an investigation came as women were stepping forward to share their complaints with the county party executive committee.

Records obtained by The Tribune show both the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office and the County Council’s legal counsel declined Feb. 9 to look into the matter.

“It does not appear that you have made any assertions that require a response from Salt Lake County,” the district attorney’s office wrote.

Robinson wrote again, on April 14, requesting the council and mayor investigate some of his accusers, citing the county’s workplace harassment policy.

“Months after a tremendously successful campaign cycle, I, a simple volunteer, am accused of things I did not do,” Robinson wrote. “Unfortunately for me, it seems many people and organizations are only too willing to sweep this under the rug, deny me due process, and destroy my reputation and livelihood.”

The mayor’s office and a spokesperson for the council chair have declined to comment on his latest request. It is unclear why Robinson called on these entities to investigate; he is not a county employee.

In an email sent to delegates April 21, Miller compared himself to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the federal judge who faced accusations of sexual assault from the 1980s during his confirmation hearings to the high court in 2018.

“Looking back at the last few weeks, I understand what it feels like to be Kavanaughed,” Miller wrote. “Utah’s GOP leadership elections are coming up; certain prominent people do not want me elected, and it seems these ‘good Republicans’ are performing last-minute, gutter antics to destroy my reputation via unfounded accusations.”

He also called for the accusers to be cross-examined.

Miller told The Tribune he felt he was being “Kavanaughed” because people made allegations about him that are “unfounded and untrue.”

“They’re just made up,” he said, adding that he had responded to women’s complaints about Robinson in a timely manner. “No one is basing anything on any evidence. No one ever called me and said, ‘What’s going on?’”

‘She was trying to back us’

(Rick Egan | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, at gubernatorial debate in 2020, says then-Salt Lake County Republican Party Chair Scott Miller knew about harassment allegations within the party but failed to act.

Miller’s latest email to delegates accused County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, one of the women who came forward with complaints about Robinson, of waiting for months, and after the November election, to share her concerns about how Robinson was treating other women.

“It is interesting to note,” Miller wrote, “that Ms. Winder Newton took at least 127 days to report the alleged abuse of the very women she claims to protect.”

Emails and texts previously shared with The Tribune show Winder Newton first contacted Miller with concerns back in September, more than a month before the election, alleging that Robinson was scaring off donors, name-calling elected officials, using candidates for self-serving purposes and that she had a list of Republicans whom Robinson had “harmed.”

“I knew that Scott Miller already knew about these things, and that he was the person who could fix it,” Winder Newton said in an interview Thursday. “To me, Scott was actually the bigger bully because of his party position.”

Miller and Robinson responded to Winder Newton’s messages in a 10-page email that demanded further details, questioned how much money the councilwoman had raised for candidates, and accused her and her donors of being supportive of Democrats, including former county Mayor Ben McAdams.

Robinson also called Winder Newton belittling nicknames in the email.

Winder Newton does not hold a leadership role in the county party. But contrary to Miller’s assertions that the councilwoman delayed taking action, women who said they experienced harassment told The Tribune that she was one of the only party members who tried to intervene on their behalf.

“Aimee got involved because no one else would take this seriously,” Erin Preston, the former GOP candidate for county recorder, told The Tribune on Thursday. “She was trying to back us, but she already knew we’d given our accounts to [Miller] again and again and again.”

Preston said she first shared her concerns about Robinson in an hourlong phone call with Miller on Sept. 24, 2020.

“He defended him,” Preston said.

She shared texts from Sept. 25 with The Tribune in which she thanked Miller for his time the previous day and shared with him screenshots of her negative interactions with Robinson.

Winder Newton said that when women did go to Miller with complaints about Robinson, their words were often weaponized against them.

“Scott allowed Dave to just take shots at me, and Scott did the same,” Winder Newton told The Tribune. “Never once did Scott pick up the phone and call me to ask, ‘Hey, what’s going on? What’s the real story here?’”

Winder Newton did not contact Miller after September, so Miller and Robinson sent her a joint email Jan. 16 in which the then-party leader called on her to “immediately” put allegations about Robinson in writing. He then accused the councilwoman of being homophobic without providing any evidence in the letter.

“I continue to be puzzled by your animosity toward Dave Robinson,” Miller wrote. “It seems you are taking issue with Dave because he is from the gay community.”

Asked Thursday why he made that claim, Miller responded, “Why else would she have an issue with Dave?”

Winder Newton told The Tribune she has long been an advocate of the LGBTQ community. She noted a resolution she co-sponsored in 2019 to ban conversion therapy for minors, a discredited method that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as one of many actions she has taken to support her LGBTQ constituents and colleagues.

“My issues with Dave are related to his behavior,” Winder Newton said, “and how he treats people, not his personal life.”

‘That’s bull’

(Leah Hogsten | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Laurie Stringham, who was elected to the Salt Lake County Council, says she worried about retaliation if she put in writing her harassment complaints against a former Salt Lake County GOP communication director.

Miller also accused Stringham, who would be elected to the County Council, of “changing her story” and declining to file a formal complaint after she alleged Robinson used vulgar language and threatened to withhold campaign resources in response to a campaign video she created last year.

“She was my friend of 10 years, of course I was going to pursue it,” had the complaint been submitted, Miller said. “All these people are making these accusations that I don’t protect women. That’s bull.”

Stringham said Thursday she felt her verbal complaint was valid and worried Miller would turn over written comments to Robinson.

“I told him I refused to file a formal complaint,” Stringham said, “that would then go straight to Dave so he could use it against me.”

She also said when she shared her complaint about Robinson with other members of the previous party leadership, they decided to keep the matter quiet to avoid negative press during the election.

“I’ve worked for the party for years, I care about its reputation,” Stringham said. “That’s why we tried to deal with it internally for so long. But the one person who could have done something about it didn’t. Scott Miller could have fired Dave Robinson, but he chose not to.”

Before Miller resigned last month, he issued an email calling out the women who came forward and questioning their credibility. That led to rebukes and criticism from numerous high-ranking Republicans in Utah, including Gov. Spencer Cox. In that email, sent before The Tribune’s story about the allegations published and before Miller decided to step down, the former chair asked whether the women were trying to “embarrass” and “cancel” both him and Robinson. He told The Tribune it was still a legitimate question.

“Why would they bring me into this?” Miller said. “This fight’s not over. I will prove my innocence.”