The Utah State Bar's executive and associate directors have used bar resources for business- and church-related activities, according to attorney Brian M. Barnard, a long-time bar critic.
Three bar commissioners have been named to investigate the allegations at the request of Associate Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Daniel Stewart, who said in a letter that he found the charges "very disturbing.""Such misuse of bar employees and resources may be criminal, especially in light of the governmental nature of the Utah State Bar," Barnard said in a letter asking that Chief Justice Gordon R. Hall investigate the matter.
"Such conduct is, at the very least, a violation of the duties, ethics and responsibilities of attorneys and employees of the judicial branch of Utah government. As a dues-paying member of the bar, I do not want my money spent in such a manner."
But Stephen Hutchinson, bar executive director, said the allegations are defamatory, malicious and part of a pattern of abuse and attack by Barnard against the bar.
"He's using the press," Hutchinson said of Barnard. "For him to go public with something he tendered to the chief justice violates the decorum of the court."
Hutchinson acknowledged that his role as executive director requires him to maintain a "community presence" through leadership and involvement in such programs as United Way, for example. But he denied he ever used the resources of the bar for purely personal or church-related activities.
"I don't do that," he said. "These are things that relate to legal counseling and leadership positions, but not routine kinds of Sunday activities."
Reed Martineau, bar commission president, is investigating the allegations and is interviewing three women who say they either participated in or witnessed the use of bar resources for non-bar related activities.
He said he's making the inquiry with an open mind but said at present there is no indication the charges are valid. He also said that Barnard's flurry of lawsuits against the bar casts some doubt on the veracity of the claims.
"You've got to consider the source, with all the lawsuits and such," he said. "There's been a lot of unhappiness" from Barnard.
Along with his letter to Hall, Barnard included signed, notarized affidavits from the three wom-en. Marjorie Kummer, a former bar employee, said that during the one year she was employed by the bar, she spent an average of 20 hours a week typing private practice legal work as well as articles and newsletters for a supervisor's church activities.
Wendy Krogh, another employee, said there was a pervasive use of bar staff for personal work. She said on one occasion, Hutchinson asked her to do a rush project, which turned out to a presentation he was making to a church group. She said it took her three hours to complete the work.
"He was willing to hold up everyone's work to do his church work," Krogh said in an interview.
But Hutchinson said Krogh wasn't even his secretary.
"I've never asked Wendy Krogh to do anything personally," he said. "And I can't think of a church project that would have taken three hours. I would have remembered if I had asked her to do anything, so I deny that."
Krogh said other staff members were asked to help make "for sale" signs and address wedding invitations for Associate Director Barbara Bassett. The daily schedule of Bassett's daughter was also kept on the bar computer by Bassett's secretary, Krogh claims.
Another employee, Sherrie Leeper, also claims Bassett operated a calligraphy business at the bar office.
"Numerous phone calls were received from her customers," Leeper said in her affidavit. "Her customers would pick up and leave calligraphy work for her at the bar office and with bar staff members."
In addition, Krogh and Leeper complain that Hutchinson, Bassett and others were prone to tell dirty jokes, make vulgar remarks and inquire into people's sex lives.
"Sexual topics and humor were a general rule at staff meetings," Krogh said. "Young staff members who were engaged to be married were often the brunt of comments and questions about pre-marital and post-wedding sexual activities during these meetings and while at work."
"With regard to this unprofessional sexual foolishness around the office, and with regard to other problems or tensions in the office, the staff felt powerless and unable to complain or respond," Leeper said.
But Hutchinson said those charges are, at best, exaggerations.
"Where you work with people in close quarters, you tend to have fairly close relationships," Hutchinson said. "But at minimum, it's been blown way out of proportion. I'm not aware of any point where humor of this office was deemed to be offensive by anyone."