Phil Lyman reportedly called Bears Ears land swap ‘gang rape’ and verbally abused female employees

Outside investigation found Rep. Lyman did not violate any laws or policies during meeting with SITLA staffers.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gubernatorial hopeful Phil Lyman at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

During the 2024 Utah Legislature, Rep. Phil Lyman met with female officials from Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to discuss the fiscal impact of his bill, HB320.

The measure aimed to change processes the agency uses when SITLA lands are auctioned off. It failed in the 2024 session.

During the meeting, Lyman, R-Blanding, mocked them and used insulting language, according to a report obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through an open records request.

After the meeting, Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, brought in an outside law firm to investigate whether Lyman had violated any state or federal laws or legislative policies. Names of several attendees were redacted in documents provided to The Tribune.

On Jan. 25, 2024, Lyman met with SITLA representatives in his office at the Capitol. Lyman’s behavior during that meeting prompted one of the attendees to complain to Schultz. According to notes about the meeting sent to House Chief of Staff Abby Osborne, Lyman did not want to discuss the legislation, instead focusing on re-litigating past disagreements with SITLA.

One attendee said she attempted to steer the conversation back to a more productive course, but Lyman mocked her and became verbally abusive.

“In response,” the report stated, “he (Lyman) said, ‘We agree to disagree’ in a high, mocking voice with exaggerated, feminine hand movements that was clearly intended to mimic and make fun of what I said.”

Lyman then accused the SITLA representatives of “being incompetent and not doing our jobs.”

He yelled that we were idiots to be “trading out of f---ing land in Bears Ears,” Lyman said, according to the report.

Utah Legislature Investigation Report by Bryan Schott on Scribd

SITLA manages millions of acres in Utah, generating revenue for public education through energy development or by auctioning off parcels to the highest bidder. Lyman’s proposed legislation would have changed how those lands are valued before auction. HB320 also would have prohibited SITLA employees from earning a commission from the sale of those lands. SITLA employees currently do not receive commission.

At one point during his outburst, Lyman attacked SITLA for giving “kickbacks” to employees on the sale of those lands but was told he was ill-informed.

“Representative, I am the [redacted], and I can assure you that no commissions are being paid on sales of land,” the meeting notes read. “I would know if that was happening,”

In response, Lyman repeated what had just been said to him, again using a high-pitched voice and “the same exaggerated feminine hand gestures” as before.

“At that point, I was done taking his verbal abuse and misogynistic mocking. I was especially not going to subject a member of [redacted] to such treatment anymore,” the attendee wrote. “I had tried repeatedly to calmly bring the meeting to a productive place and had directly asked him to stop acting unprofessional. Those actions only seemed to aggravate him more.”

As they exited the room, Lyman reportedly said he “wasn’t done with (them) yet.”

A representative from Parsons Behle & Latimer, the Legislature’s outside law firm, interviewed three people who were present during the meeting with Lyman. The report concluded Lyman had not violated state or federal laws or legislative policies against harassment or and that he had not created a hostile workplace. Schultz instructed the investigator not to speak with Lyman because anything he might say was unlikely to change those conclusions.

The report did, however, include several troubling details from those involved in the interaction with Lyman.

One attendee told investigators that during a previous meeting with Gov. Spencer Cox, Rep. John Curtis and Sen. Mike Lee, Lyman was “unpleasant and argumentative” and referred to the Bears Ears land swap as a “gang rape.”

“After the meeting, Senator Lee said Rep. Lyman was ‘pretty awful — and that’s coming from me,’” the report stated.

Lyman Meeting Notes - 2024.01.25 by Bryan Schott on Scribd

Both women who attended the meeting told investigators they felt it was highly unlikely Lyman would have exhibited the same behavior had they been men. One said she was worried that Lyman would “portray this meeting in an untruthful way” and was concerned that Lyman would “present a narrative of [her]/SITLA walking out on a meeting with him for no reason.” The other expressed concern that Lyman might use the incident to “trash [her] reputation.”

The male attendee said it was his first time in a small meeting with Lyman.

He said that while he agreed with many of the political positions Lyman expressed during the meeting, he found the lawmaker’s conduct to be inappropriate, unprofessional and unproductive, the report said.

One of the women said she would not attend another meeting with him unless there were men present for fear he would exhibit similar behavior toward her. The other said she would not accept another meeting invitation from Lyman unless it was in public.

Lyman did not respond to questions from The Tribune.

Sources with knowledge of the meeting and its aftermath told The Tribune that Schultz opted against taking any action against Lyman since he was leaving the Legislature at year’s end to run for governor.

Schultz did not respond to questions from The Tribune about his decision not to discipline Lyman or why the report was not made public until the newspaper submitted an open records request.

Lyman’s gubernatorial campaign has received $550,000 in donations from a newly created company with ties to his family members who have spent millions of dollars buying up SITLA land at auction. The company, Government Leadership Solutions, has made three massive donations to his campaign, the most recent being a $250,000 contribution on May 24.

Lehi-based Government Leadership Solutions was created just days after Lyman officially entered the race for governor. The company shares an address with Lyman Family Farm, which members of his family own. From 2014 to 2016, Lyman Family Farm spent $6.4 million to buy more than 5,200 acres of SITLA land.

Campaign finance experts say the company appears to be a so-called dark money conduit to hide the identity of donors to Lyman’s campaign.