Turley surprises Provo council by resigning
Provo • Body was set to consider his ouster due to ethics violations.
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Provo • In a surprise last-minute move, embattled Provo Municipal Councilman Steve Turley resigned Tuesday night, just before his colleagues met to consider his ouster.

The announcement came after days of speculation that the remaining six members of the council were poised to remove him from office after an investigation found that he had violated the state Municipal Officers' and Employees' Act.

Turley was not present at the special Tuesday night meeting, but he has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

His attorney, Craig Carlile, said in an interview after the meeting that the state's municipal ethics code was "flawed" and did not provide an opportunity for his client to test the veracity of witnesses who made statements against him.

"He had hoped to make a presentation tonight," Carlile said of his client. "But that wasn't going to be offered to him."

Carlile also said he wished the council would have read aloud his client's letter of resignation. "It's a difficult night for Mr. Turley. He has enjoyed his time on the council."

Earlier, Carlile had supplied the council with an 11-page rebuttal to the city's investigation by retired Judge Anthony Schofield.

The controversial councilman has been caught up in a web of allegations that have spawned 10 felony fraud counts filed in 4th District Court.

The city's independent investigation outlined five instances in which the state's municipal ethics act was violated by Turley for failing to disclose conflicts of interest or acting on information he obtained as a council member.

It is that law the council could have used to remove him.

Trial dates in the felony cases have yet to be set.

Turley has publicly chalked up allegations against him to what he termed the "frenzy" and "drama" created by his political opponents seeking to unseat him.

He had earlier refused to resign, saying that would "license future councils throughout the state to overturn a legitimate election when disgruntled political opponents complain loud enough."

Turley was not seeking re-election this year and had less than four months left in his second term.

Council Chairman Rick Healey confirmed Tuesday night that the council had accepted Turley's resignation and would not move forward with the dismissal proceedings.

Healey added, however, that the council was ready to dismiss Turley.

"The council was unified in its findings that Mr. Turley violated the ethics act," Healey said. "We have gone through a process that we are unanimous about and we feel we did it properly."

Longtime Provo resident Pam Jones said she would have preferred that Turley get a hearing in court rather than be removed by the council.

"How can a legislative body reverse the voters action?" she asked. "It seems like he should have a chance to present his side of it to a judicial body."

But Diane Christensen, one of 23 Provo residents who brought complaints against Turley, said he should have resigned months ago.

"It would have saved the city a lot of time and money," she said.

The citizens group began its call for an investigation into Turley's activities a year ago, Christensen explained. The group was originally rebuffed by Provo Mayor John R. Curtis, as well as the Utah Attorney General's Office.

It was only after Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman brought criminal charges that the municipality again considered its own ethics investigation, Christensen said.

"The right thing has been done here today," she said. "But I don't think you'll ever hear an apology from Steve Turley."

Christensen said she and her colleagues were not politically motivated, as Turley has alleged.

"We started into this without any personal animosity," she said. "We've been accused of retaliation and being a lynch mob, but we've tried to take the high road."

Turley could not be reached for comment Tuesday following the council meeting.

csmart@sltrib.com —

What's next?

Nov. 15 • Status hearing in 4th District Court for Steve Turley, who faces nine second-degree felony counts.