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A top official in the state Division of Securities who investigates financial crimes in Utah is being fired.

Michael Hines, director of enforcement, confirmed Monday he had received a notice that he was being terminated but declined to provide details.

Hines directed investigations into possible violations of state securities laws and was considered an expert in that area. He testified at trials on behalf of the state and also has taught courses in securities law at the University of Utah.

Hines said he was looking into hiring a law firm to represent him and would not say more until discussing the case with legal counsel.

The director of the Division of Securities, Keith Woodwell, said Monday he could not discuss the matter in detail.

"The bottom line is it's an internal, personnel matter, and I don't think we can comment on it at this point because it hasn't really played itself out all the way," he said.

Under state personnel procedures, employees who receive notices of a job action can appeal the decision, Woodwell said.

Mark Pugsley, a prominent securities attorney, said the loss was a blow to financial law enforcement in the state.

"I think Mike Hines is a pillar of the securities community and someone who is well-regarded by attorneys on all sides," Pugsley said. "He's very good."

Hines' firing is a "loss to the Division of Securities," said Pugsley.

Hines is the second high-profile official to leave the division in the past four years. Wayne Klein, the director of the division, resigned in early 2008 after an unfavorable legislative audit that focused on inappropriate investigative procedures.

Twitter: @TomHarveysltrib

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