The head of travel development for the state isn't violating ethics laws by serving on the board of directors of the Utah Ski Association, according to the attorney general's office.
But Travel Development Division Director Jay Woolley was warned in an attorney general's opinion released Tuesday that his involvement with the industry organization may go beyond what the law describing his duties allows.According to the opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Ralph Finlayson, "the close involvement stated with the one association appears to contradict more than follow the charge the statue gives. . . ."
The opinion goes on to advise Woolley that "care should be taken to even-handedly coordinate all of the various tourist segments of the `state at large.' "
Woolley asked his boss, state Department of Community and Economic Development Director Stan Parrish, to request the opinion in response to conflict of interest charges leveled at Woolley last month by a local advertising agency.
The charges from Winborg & Winborg Advertising Inc. resulted in the state canceling a contract worth $60,000 to Ski Utah, the Utah Ski Association's marketing arm.
Woolley was one of three state officials who had recommended Ski Utah be given the three-year contract to print the winter travel guide distributed by the Utah Travel Council.
Woolley said Tuesday he had not yet seen the opinion and so could not comment on whether he would resign his industry positions as a result of the attorney general's findings.
Besides sitting on the Utah Ski Association's board of directors as a non-voting member, Woolley also serves as a member of Ski Utah's marketing committee.
"I don't like having my ethics questioned," Woolley said. He has argued he has to participate in the ski industry organizations because the law calls for him to help coordinate tourism promotion among public and private groups.
The opinion concluded that Woolley did not "knowingly and intentionally" violate the Utah Public Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act through his involvement in the organizations.
However, the opinion found that Woolley's "close involvement with, and participation to advance, one segment would appear to involve securing privileges to that segment not as readily available to others. . . ."
"It isn't black and white," said John Clark, counsel to Attorney General Paul Van Dam.
"The attorney general believes that public officers trusted with fostering economic development in a whole industry ought not to be devoting their energies to any one aspect of the industry to the exclusion of others," Clark said.