Utah GOP lawmaker charged with poaching and firearms violations may face ethics probe

Rep. Travis Seegmiller is facing three misdemeanor charges stemming from an August incident where he is accused of illegally shooting a deer in a neighborhood.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Rep. Travis Seegmiller, R-St. George, may be facing ethics probe after being charged with poaching and firearms violations.

Rep. Travis Seegmiller, R-St. George, could be facing an ethics investigation after he was charged with poaching and firearms violations last month.

Seegmiller is facing three misdemeanor charges related to an August incident where he is accused of shooting a deer in a residential neighborhood in a rural community in Washington County. Witnesses said they observed a man loading the carcass into his car. Witnesses say he identified himself as Travis Seegmiller. He allegedly told them he was out of work and needed the meat to feed his family. Seegmiller plead not guilty earlier this week. The case is scheduled for trial next February.

Seegmiller believes an ethics probe is a distinct possibility. In an email chain obtained through an open-records request, Seegmiller reached out to John Fellowes, General Counsel for the Legislature, and asked for a meeting with him and his legal counsel, saying House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, warned him an ethics probe is possible during the upcoming special session.

“I write to request a phone conversation or Zoom meeting with you, to include Doug Terry, regarding the process and all pertinent details should the House Ethics Committee choose to hold a hearing before or during the Nov. 9th Special Session to review the misdemeanor charges against me (which charges I am vigorously contesting.) **Please note that Speaker Wilson tells me that such a hearing could be forthcoming, and he recommended that I connect with you about this,” Seegmiller wrote.

Seegmiller did not respond to a request for comment.

No ethics complaints have been lodged against Seegmiller as of Friday morning, but several lawmakers have inquired about the process according to a legislative source who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, who is the chair of the House Ethics Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first wildlife-related run-in with the law for Seegmiller. He was acquitted in 2015 of three misdemeanors after being accused of illegally shooting a deer. According to court documents, prosecutors allege that Seegmiller falsified records showing he completed a required service program for Utah’s “Dedicated Hunter” program to get his license in time for that year’s muzzleloader hunt during which he harvested a buck deer. But a judge found him not guilty.

The code of conduct for Utah lawmakers says lawmakers cannot “engage in any activity that would be an abuse of official position or a violation of trust.” That likely would be the basis for any complaint made against Seegmiller by his colleagues.

Members of the public could also bring an ethics complaint against Seegmiller to the independent Legislative Ethics Commission, but only if they have firsthand knowledge of what he’s being accused of.

The highest-profile ethics complaint in recent years was in 2008. Then-Rep. Greg Hughes was accused of promising $50,000 in campaign funds to a fellow lawmaker if they would change their vote on a proposal to create private school vouchers in the state. After seven days of closed-door testimony, Hughes was cleared.

In 1991, Ogden Democrat Dionne Halverson plead no contest to shoplifting after stealing nearly $200 in men’s clothing from a store in the Ogden Mall. The House came within two votes of expelling her but opted for censure instead. She later resigned.