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Salt Lake County Republicans stepped up their efforts Monday to try to make the Mountain Accord planning process a campaign issue against incumbent Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams.
Party activist Mike Edwards filed a complaint Monday with the Utah attorney general's office, asking it to investigate alleged violations of procurement laws by the Mountain Accord and McAdams, chairman of its executive committee.
The Mountain Accord was a broad-based effort to develop a long-term plan that protects the central Wasatch Mountains as an ecosystem while accounting for its importance as a heavily visited, economically important recreation area.
In submitting the complaint, Edwards' attorney, former county prosecutor Kent Morgan, cited no specific examples of violations by Mountain Accord. But he said Monday's move was following up on allegations made last week by Republican mayoral candidate Dave Robinson.
"We're moving from talking about it to asking the attorney general to investigate," said Morgan. "We'll leave it to the attorney general to look at the parties and what they did."
Robinson alleged that Mountain Accord officials awarded no-bid contracts to several consultants who supported the McAdams campaign financially. He also accused Mountain Accord of violating the state open meetings law, as did Edwards, based on an opinion from the state auditor's office.
As they did last week, McAdams and Mountain Accord coordinator Laynee Jones rejected the accusations as political nonsense heading into the election's final weeks.
"My opponent, Dave Robinson, is a canyons-watershed developer with a long history of wasting taxpayer dollars using frivolous lawsuits and baseless allegations to extort development concessions," McAdams said in a statement.
He was referring, in part, to an open-meetings lawsuit filed against Mountain Accord by the Cardiff Canyon Owners Association, which Robinson represented previously in dealings with the U.S. Forest Service. Robinson also is seen as an ally of property owners who have been involved in longstanding fights with the Salt Lake City department of public utilities over water rights and usage in the canyons.
"I am proud of the work done by Mountain Accord," said McAdams, who has emphasized the informal organization had 20 diverse groups on its executive committee, dozens more involved as stakeholders and held meetings that attracted thousands of public participants.
"I'm disappointed that this partisan politicking continues," he added, although later in the day, several Republicans involved in Mountain Accord came to his defense.
"To make allegations against Ben McAdams is not only wrong, it undermines the incredible work done by policymakers in a bipartisan way to address issues facing our constituents, regardless of political party," said the statement from House Speaker Greg Hughes and mayors Tom Dolan (Sandy), Troy Walker (Draper) and Kelvyn Cullimore (Cottonwood Heights). "Mountain Accord represents a triumph of a great bipartisan effort." Dolan and Cullimore have officially endorsed McAdams' re-election.
Jones, the Mountain Accord coordinator, also rejected accusations that procurement procedures were violated, saying she and McAdams went "above and beyond" legal requirements to ensure the consultant-contracting complied with the law.
She said she had to go through bidding processes twice once to get her job, then later to retain it. Several other contracts also went out to bid, including one that went to the Exoro Group to boost public engagement in the process, Jones said, insisting McAdams recused himself from that selection because Exoro had worked on his earlier political campaigns.
Jones also said she is not required, under terms of her contract, to go out to bid on a half dozen subcontracts for smaller tasks.
In the end, she said, Mountain Accord has been a success in getting most conflicting parties "to put down our swords for years and we actually agreed what we're going to do with those [central Wasatch] mountains. That's never been done before."