This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is doing everything he can to block the public from learning how his office handled an investigation of embattled San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman.
Assistant Attorney General Blaine Ferguson has argued that keeping the records secret is necessary to protect Lyman's privacy rights.
Perhaps it really is to protect the political interests of Reyes, who has shown an aversion to investigating prominent Republican officials in the past.
Not only has his office refused a Salt Lake Tribune request for all documents relating to the investigation of Lyman, it has yet to comply with a State Records Committee order to make the information public.
In fact, the attorney general's office won't even acknowledge that any records exist.
The office's next step would be to appeal the committee's ruling to 3rd District Court.
The Lyman probe stems from former San Juan County Assessor Howard Randall's allegations that Lyman, who also works as an accountant, used his government post to lower the property values of clients to keep down their taxes.
Randall took his concerns to the Utah Tax Commission, which turned it over to the attorney general's office. Randall has said attorney general investigators showed him a presentation of what they found, even though that office won't admit there was an investigation.
No charges were filed, and the case presumably is closed. So why the frenzied attempts to the keep the records buried?
Lyman has become a right-wing hero since he organized an illegal ATV ride in a federally protected canyon and was convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy charges. He awaits sentencing in federal court.
The Utah Association of Counties named him County Commissioner of the Year, although he declined the award in the wake of public outrage. And several GOP politicians have pledged donations to his defense fund.
Many of Lyman's most vocal supporters will be delegates at the Utah Republican Convention, a group that Reyes courts. So is keeping the probe under wraps a tactic to protect Lyman? Or is it to keep secret the reasons nothing ever came of the investigation?
We've seen this scenario before.
When Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel was accused by his deputies of choking a handcuffed individual at a homicide scene last year, the investigation was handed to the attorney general's office, which often takes over inquiries from counties that have a conflict of interest.
After an investigation, the office shopped the case to several county prosecutors. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings finally agreed to screen it, but then the FBI and U.S. attorney's office took up the matter. If the feds walk away from the case, Rawlings said he "would be glad to take it back."
One problem the attorney general's office had with an investigation of the Beaver sheriff was the fact he is the son of state Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, chairman of the House Rules Committee and a lawmaker who has shown vengeance in the past.
The attorney general's office is currently in a lawsuit with The Tribune over the newspaper's records request involving the office's probe of Cameron Noel.
Mike Noel, by the way, has been a vocal Lyman defender.
At least Reyes is consistent.