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The FBI is investigating two nonprofit organizations with close ties to the Salt Lake City Police Department and senior political advisers to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
The investigation "touches on matters related to the Salt Lake City Police Department's relationship with foundations," and has been ongoing for some time, according to a July 17 letter Interim Police Chief Mike Brown delivered to the Salt Lake City Police Mutual Aid Association (PMAA), and the Salt Lake City Police Foundation (SLCPF). Brown has suspended all of his department's involvement with both groups' activities in light of the investigation.
Donald Dunn, a professional fundraiser and unpaid senior political adviser to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, is chairman of the SLCPF. Maura Carabello, president of The Exoro Group public-affairs company and also an unpaid political adviser to McAdams, is an administrator of the SLCPF. Another Exoro employee is the foundation's other administrator. Former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank is listed as an ex-officio board member of the foundation.
Burbank was forced by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker to resign in June over his handling of sexual-harassment complaints a year earlier. Brown, a deputy chief, was then elevated to interim chief.
McAdams said in a statement to The Tribune, "I have no connection to the Salt Lake Police Foundation."
The mayor said that while some of his supporters serve on the foundation, "I don't have any knowledge of their work with the foundation." He also said he knows nothing about an investigation into the nonprofit.
It's not clear what either of the nonprofit organizations is accused of. Brown did not return several calls from the SLCPF about the matter, according to a Friday statement from the foundation.
It also is not clear whether this matter has any connection to the FBI investigation, ongoing since early June, into former Salt Lake County Associate Deputy Mayor Justin Miller on allegations he stole from McAdams for Mayor campaign funds. Miller, an elected state legislator who was fired from his county post last October, also has alleged impropriety in county government involving the Exoro Group, a county contractor.
The FBI has not said what it is looking into, although it did issue investigative subpoenas to some county officials, raising the prospect of a wider probe. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who was involved in the Miller investigation early on, has discounted the notion that federal investigators are looking into any matter beyond Miller's alleged embezzlement.
The SLCPF filed a formal government records request with the city last week to "better understand the motivation and propriety of the city's actions."
Tribune requests for comment from Dunn and Carabello were not returned Friday evening.
Between the two of them, the PMAA and the SLCPF organize and fund fallen officer ceremonies and community outreach programs, such as the Explorer program for young people interested in joining law enforcement; the annual student art contest, Five-O Festival and picnic for retired officers; and the operation of a shooting range for both officers and the public. The programs also are meant to foster goodwill between the police and the public.
"I recognize the good intentions of the PMAA and the SLCPF and the men and women who support the organizations' efforts through their donations of time and money," Brown wrote in his letter to Lt. LaMar Ewell, president of the PMAA, which he hand-delivered to Ewell at his home.
The SLCPF said in its statement that it learned the Salt Lake City attorney's office actually drafted the letter, which carries Brown's signature.
The lieutenant remembers Brown was sorry to have to suspend the PMAA.
Ewell was told to pack up everything that belongs to the group including the first-floor museum pieces and vending machines they own and move them out of police headquarters.
In all this time, Ewell and the SLCPF said no FBI investigator has approached them.
"If such contact occurs, the [SLCPF] will be more than cooperative," the foundation said in its statement. In the meantime, the SLCPF plans to retain legal counsel to protect itself against "unsubstantiated claims aimed at disrupting our work in the community."
In the letter, Brown indicated that he might revisit whether the police department should get involved with the foundations again.
The FBI declined to comment.
Brown and City Attorney Margaret Plane also could not immediately be reached for comment.