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Provo mayor recommends dismissal of councilman Steve Turley following ethics investigation

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 20 2011 7:52 p.m. MDT

Provo City Councilman Steve Turley, right, makes his first appearance in 4th District Court in Provo alongside his attorney, Brett Tolman, on Aug. 24, 2011. Provo Mayor John Curtis recommended Tuesday that Turley be dismissed from the City Council following an ethical misconduct investigation. Turley is charged with 10 counts of communication fraud.

Francisco Kjolseth,

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PROVO — The mayor of Provo recommended Tuesday that Councilman Steve Turley be dismissed following an investigation into allegations of ethical misconduct.

The investigation found that 43-year-old Turley, a land developer who has served on the council more than seven years, "violated the Ethics Act in at least five ways, including failures to disclose conflicts and use of office for personal gain," according to Provo Mayor John Curtis.

Curtis released a 21-page report containing what he said are visible "patterns of deception and personal dealings" by Turley. He said he has "no choice by law but to recommend dismissal."

"If the council, city staff and especially the public cannot have faith in the veracity of their elected officials, our ability to carry on our work will be irreparably harmed," Curtis said in a letter to the City Council. "Those who seek public office should expect to live up to a high standard that exceeds average and normal. When there is a failure to do this, we must have accountability.

"… Winning an election is not a pass to lie, disregard the law, use our office for personal gain, or harm those we serve," the mayor wrote.

A group of 23 Provo residents first filed a conflict-of-interest complaint against Turley in November 2010, asking the mayor for an internal investigation. At the time, Turley denied any wrong-doing and said he had been complying with the standards of public office for the entire time he'd been serving on the council.

About eight months later, Turley took a "leave of absence" from his council position when he was charged with 10 second-degree felonies for communication fraud and exploitation between July 2006 and December 2009. A hearing on those charges is set for Nov. 15 in American Fork.

In August, Curtis hired former 4th District Judge Anthony Schofield to investigate the complaints internally. The complaints and investigative documents fill six three-ring binders.

Schofield said that Turley failed to disclose his interests in properties that were the subject of council discussion and decision. And while Turley took interest in improving certain areas of the city with his developments, Schofield said the council member also used various land deals for personal gain.

"A common theme in all of the many citizen complaints was Mr. Turley's apparent willingness to lie or misrepresent; often in cases where the truth would not have made a difference," Schofield said, adding that he only investigated a small number of the available complaints but believes other violations likely exist.

"That is a sad commentary," he said.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Turley said he was "disappointed" in the report and that he "strongly disagrees" with its findings. 

"I've been a passionate advocate for Provo taxpayers, who rightly expect high ethical standards of me as one of their elected officials," Turley said. "I have met that standard."

In the statement, the claims against Turley were characterized as "baseless" and having been made by political opponents. Turley's attorney, Craig Carlile, said he and Turley "objected" to the investigation process, which he said didn't allow for cross-examination or further tests of the evidence.

Carlile also took issue with how much time he was given to review the complaints and the issues highlighted by Schofield in the report.

"We informed the mayor that the arbitrary time limit to conclude this investigation deprived Mr. Turley of his due process rights which requires a full and fair opportunity to be heard," Carlile said in the statement. 

Carlile told the Deseret News that he and Turley had prepared a response to the report they planned to deliver Wednesday. 

"Beyond that, I don't know what Steve's plans are," Carlile said, noting that Turley was unlikely to give further comment in light of the pending criminal case. 

It is now up to the Provo City Council to take final action on the matter. If it agrees that violations have occurred, it could "dismiss, suspend, or take such other appropriate action," said Provo spokeswoman Helen Anderson. She said the council will convene a special meeting sometime next week to discuss the findings of the report.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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