Two lots in the Cedar Hollow subdivision owned by Lehi City were sold during the past year without the knowledge of City Council members, the Deseret News has learned.
Documents on file in the county recorder's office show Mayor Guy Cash signed off on the sale of both lots. Council members contacted by the Deseret News say they were unaware of either transaction.Cash was charged earlier this month with a third-degree felony offense of receiving unlawful compensation as an elected official in one transaction, in which he allegedly served as a real estate agent. No compensation was involved in the second transaction, but council members say they still should have known about it.
According to several council members, standard city procedure was for the mayor to notify the council of any transaction involving sale or exchange of city land before the sale was finalized.
In the guidebook "Powers and Duties of Municipal Officials," distributed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, elected officials are advised "the sale or exchange of land appears to require legislative approval as does any transfer of funds between departments or approval of subdivisions." That advice is based on law, according to the league.
In 1989, the City Council approved sale of another lot in the subdivision, according to County Attorney Kay Bryson. But there is no question about that sale because it went before the council, and at that time Cash was a council member.
In June, Lehi City sold lot No. 4 in the subdivision, according to a special warranty deed on file in the county recorder's office. The deed was signed by Cash, City Recorder Gary Lewis and City Attorney Ken Rush-ton.
Lewis told the Deseret News no real estate agent was involved in that transaction. Because no compensation was involved, the sale is not being investigated by the county attorney's office. However, the sale should have been authorized by the council.
"Any transactions are supposed to be brought before the council before they are completed," City Councilman C. Wesley Rasmussen said.
A complaint filed by the Utah county attorney's office May 2 says Cash acted as the real estate agent and received compensation for the sale of lot 7 in the subdivision, a violation of sections 10-3-1305 and 10-3-1310 of the state code.
Cash is charged with receiving unlawful compensation by an elected official, a third-degree felony. Utah code says that no official can receive or agree to receive compensation for a business transaction involving the city without first declaring so in a sworn statement or disclosing the compensation in an open public meeting.
In October, Cash signed a warranty deed authorizing the sale of lot No. 7 in the subdivision, according to a document on file in the recorder's office. He acted as the real estate agent in the transaction and allegedly received a commission ranging from $250 and $1,000, according to Bryson.
Cash is not commenting on the matter. Lehi businessman Russ Schneider said Cash is concerned about the emotional and financial costs of fighting a lawsuit.
"He was really down and told me he was wondering how long he could remain mayor," Schneider said.
City Council members contacted by the Deseret News said they were unaware of either transaction until contacted by the sheriff's office as part of an investigation on the sale of lot No. 7.
The investigation began when a resident contacted Councilman Keith Jenkins in February about the sale of lot No. 7. After some "basic checking" Jenkins learned the lot indeed had been sold without the council's knowledge.
He also learned that Cash was the real estate agent involved in the sale. Jenkins shared his information with two other council members, who told him they also were unaware the lot had been sold. Jenkins turned his information over to the state attorney general's office, which referred it the Utah County attorney's office.
Cash is scheduled to make a first appearance on the felony charge in 4th Circuit Court in American Fork on Thursday, May 16.
Council members split over what should happen next
In the wake of allegations about the city's mayor, the Lehi Council is split about what should happen next.
Councilwoman Carolyn Player told the Deseret News she believes Mayor Guy Cash should remain in office and that the land deal may have been a simple error on his part.
"I don't believe there was any willful wrongdoing on his part. It may have just been an error in judgment."
Player believes the matter could have, and probably should have, been taken care of in-house.
"I don't think it should have gone to the state attorney general's office, and I feel like the council could have taken care of the matter. Guy has really done a good job for this city, and now I'm concerned about its future."
But Councilman Keith Jenkins said that if Cash "did indeed sell a lot he did it on his own, by his choice, and he should be held accountable for and responsible for his actions.
"To handle this inhouse and basically try to cover it up would have been tantamount to two wrongs," Jenkins said. "I felt an obligation to have it checked out. I was elected and sworn in to uphold the laws of the land.
"It seems to me the easiest way for Lehi's reputation to stay intact is to find a quick resolution to the problem, and if what Cash has done is true, he should resign," Jenkins said.
Councilman Johnny Barnes declined to comment on Cash's immediate future, although he did say he would "prefer to see the course of action decided by legal means."
Cash "is smart enough to know whether he's guilty or not," Barnes said. "My opinion is that we should just let the course of action take its place."
Both Councilman C. Wesley Rasmussen and Councilman Sherwin Allred declined to comment on the matter, though Allred did say the issue has been blown out of proportion. "That's not something I'm willing to help with."