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Kim Burningham, the leader of a group pushing an ethics reform initiative, is being accused of an ethics violation himself.
He's not alone. A separate, unrelated complaint accuses Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, of missing disclosure deadlines for campaign contributions. It turns out he held the checks for months without depositing them, which the state elections office says legally allowed him to skip disclosure.
Burningham is a state school board member seeking re-election. Ruland Gill, an eliminated challenger for his seat, filed a complaint with the Lieutenant Governor's Office this week noting that Burningham failed to list on his required conflict-of-interest form that he chairs Utahns for Ethical Government.
That group has pushed an initiative seeking extensive ethics reforms. Its petition drive fell short for inclusion on the ballot this year, but the group says it has enough to place it on the 2012 ballot. Burningham has been its high-profile spokesman.
"It's not like I am trying to hide my position. Everyone knows that I am the chairman of Utahns for Ethical Government," Burningham, a former state lawmaker and retired schoolteacher, said. "I'm not paid anything for that. I just spend a lot of my own money on it."
Burningham said he had in his mind that the form was for financial disclosures, "so I guess that's why I only listed financial positions" where he is paid.
However, the forms are officially titled "conflict of interest disclosure forms," and require listing any organization "for which you serve on the board of directors or in any other formal advisory capacity."
Burningham said when he realized he should have listed that position, he tried several weeks ago to amend his form. However, Mark Thomas, office administrator for Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, said the law does not allow amendments. The original is essentially "set in stone," he said, and is posted online.
Gill, a retired Questar lobbyist, requested in his complaint that Burningham be removed from the ballot for his misstep. However, Thomas said the law does not now include any kind of punishment for improper disclosures.
Thomas said the Legislature may want to revisit potential penalties and whether to allow amendments.
Meanwhile, Democrat Deon Turley, who is running against Grover, filed a complaint with the Lieutenant Governor's Office saying she noticed that political parties, companies and political action committees reported giving Grover $5,000 in recent months, but Grover's own reports said he had received nothing. She asked for an investigation.
Grover said in an interview that he only goes monthly to a Post Office box where he receives legislative-related mail. And he only deals with donation checks "once in a great while, and all at the same time" often leaving checks unopened for long periods in that mailbox.
He said he opened many checks on Aug. 31, which was a reporting deadline but only for donations "received" by Aug. 26.
Thomas said state law defines receipt of a check as when it is deposited, not when it arrives in the mail. So he said that Grover not disclosing those checks on the normal deadline appears to be within the current law.
Once a check is deposited in a bank, it must be reported to the Lieutenant Governor's Office within 30 days. Grover says he did that.