January 9, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An attorney general's investigation could not find anyone who felt cheated by a Utah lawmaker's nonprofit advocating federal land transfers to states, leading to a decision not to pursue prosecution
More than 500 pages of investigative documents show counties were satisfied with the work of state Rep. Ken Ivory and his group, the American Lands Council, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1mL20fE).
The newspaper obtained the documents through an open records request.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced in October that a team of prosecutors in his office determined "independently and collaboratively this case lacks a reasonable likelihood of conviction" if charges were to be filed against Ivory.
Anne Weisman, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability, had said Ivory was persuading counties to donate money by saying they could take control of federal land using a legal argument that he should have known was likely unconstitutional. She said this amounted to fraud.
A watchdog group alleged that Ivory asked for governments to give taxpayer money to the nonprofit American Lands Council, but kept most of the contributions for himself and his wife.
Salaries and benefits paid by the nonprofit amounted to $227,000 out of a total of $336,000 in spending over a two-year period, which a Department of Commerce auditor told investigators did not raise any alarms.
State elections office administrator Spencer Hadley says legislators who advocate for specific issues are not required to register as lobbyists.
Investigators spoke to commissioners from seven counties that donated to Ivory's nonprofit group. One commissioner, from Utah County, had concerns about Ivory's dual roles, as well as a possible conflict with an effort to resolve these land disputes.
Ivory has said the complaints were politically motivated.
"You have desperate, shadowy D.C. groups that are afraid that they're going to lose their stranglehold over the Western lands and they resort to these sorts of shady tactics," Ivory said.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com