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Retired Utah judge to head up ethics probe of Provo councilman

Published August 2, 2011 11:56 am

Provo • Embattled councilman also faces 10 felony counts.
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Provo • A retired 4th District judge will investigate whether embattled Provo Municipal Councilman Steve Turley acted unethically.

Mayor John Curtis announced Anthony W. Schofield's appointment Tuesday, formally initiating the investigation of Turley, who also faces 10 felony charges.

"We are fortunate to have someone of Judge Schofield's caliber working on this," Curtis said. "He met all of my criteria. He is a former judge now associated with one of the largest and most reputable law firms in the state. It's critical that the parties and the public feel confident in the process, and that's where his experience and reputation make a difference."

Schofield, a state judge for 14 years, retired from the bench in 2007. He is currently an attorney with Kirton and McConkie.

"I'm happy to perform this service for the mayor," Schofield said.

The only similar investigation he conducted, he said, came in 2003, when the Utah Supreme Court asked him to examine complaints against a juvenile-court judge in Salt Lake County.

Curtis said he asked Schofield to investigate to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He expects the investigation to wrap up in a month, when the findings will be presented to the Municipal Council.

Schofield's contract calls for him to be paid $250 per hour for the investigation, which Curtis anticipates taking 40 to 75 hours, though the ex-judge is not limited to that time.

"I have told him 30 days," Curtis said, "but quality is more important."

Council Chairman Rick Healey said he was "satisfied" with the choice of Schofield and is confident Schofield will conduct an unbiased investigation.

Turley was charged last week with seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploiting a vulnerable adult and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal conduct, all second-degree felonies. If convicted, Turley could go to prison for one to 15 years.

The two-term councilman was given an ultimatum by Curtis and the council: Resign or face an ethics probe. Turley has not stepped down. Instead, he chose to take a paid leave of absence from his part-time council post.

Craig Carlile, Turley's attorney for the ethics investigation, said his client looks forward to learning the specifics behind the accusations made by a group of 23 residents and presenting his side of the story.

The residents allege that Turley had failed to disclose conflicts of interest, used his office for personal gain and interfered with government operations by undermining a spirit of council collegiality, specifically by participating in a political action committee that targeted Councilwoman Cindy Richards in the 2009 election.

Richards lost her seat to Sterling Beck.

Carlile said there is no doubt the charges against Turley were politically motivated.

"Mr. Schofield will be able to look past the politics of it," Carlile said, "and see if there is any basis for it."

Diane Christensen, one of the residents who filed the allegations, denied that politics played a part.

"There is no political gain to be had by anyone [filing the charges]," Chistensen said. "We're anti-corruption, and that is all we're anti."

Christensen said she and other members of the group will meet with Schofield this week to present their evidence.

Helen Anderson, the city's spokeswoman, said Schofield's inquiry will also examine other complaints that fall under the scope of the Utah Municipal Officers and Employees Ethics Act. Those complaints must be made in writing to Curtis' office, she said, and the person making the complaint must sign it.


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What's next?

P Provo Municipal Councilman Steve Turley, charged with 10 felonies, will make an initial appearance Aug. 24 at 1:30 p.m. in Provo's 4th District Court.






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