Kanab economic development officials say everything was above board in their hiring of a state senator's son for an $80,000 a year job after the Legislature funded the position.
Kelly Stowell, son of Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, was hired last week as a special consultant/executive director for southwestern Utah's Center for Education, Business and the Arts, located in Kanab. Sen. Stowell represents Kanab and surrounding counties and supported the funding for CEBA.
In addition to his base salary, Kelly Stowell can earn another $20,000 if certain goals are met over the next year, said Christina Schultz, chairwoman of CEBA.
A number of state senators received an e-mail Tuesday complaining about Kelly Stowell's hiring. A July 14 story in The Spectrum, a St. George newspaper, has on its Web site a posted comment that makes the same allegations as the e-mail: that Kelly Stowell is unqualified for the position and that Sen. Stowell helped get CEBA a $125,000 grant funded by the 2008 Legislature that provided the money to hire a new consultant/executive director.
Schultz said the CEBA board knew that Kelly Stowell is the senator's son, "but that was not in the equation" in picking the new consultant/executive director. The up-to $100,000-a-year job contract is just for 12 months, said Schultz. "We have no money for more salary" beyond next summer. But part of Kelly Schultz's job is to lobby the Legislature for more funds and seek other grants or donations that could provide a continuing salary.
Schultz, who is a vice president at Dixie State College, which is also helping CEBA with funding, said perhaps the complaints about Stowell's hiring are coming from "disgruntled" people who applied for the job but didn't get it. She said between 25 and 30 people applied for the position, but Kelly Stowell was the unanimous pick.
Kelly Stowell's hiring was appropriate, she said, because he was the best candidate, even though he is relatively young. Schultz said he "is probably about 25 years old."
Kelly Stowell couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Schultz said the CEBA idea has been growing for several years, and the Legislature has provided money before for the fledgling three-way effort by Kanab, Kane County and Dixie College to re-energize the Kane County economy. That would be done by educating its citizens for modern jobs, encouraging conferences, retreats and seminars, and developing more tourism and filmmaking around Kanab, where Hollywood Westerns were often shot in the 1950s and 1960s.
While Sen. Stowell certainly supported the CEBA's request for the $125,000 grant that would pay the salary for a new executive director, others were more involved than the senator in the work before lawmakers, Schultz said.
Sen. Stowell couldn't be reached for comment. But Schultz said that there was no discussion during the session that his son would apply.
"Sen. Stowell certainly supported us and he voted for the money," Schultz said.
During the session, Schultz met more with officials from the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, than with Stowell. GOED has also recommended the grant in previous years.
Part of Kelly Stowell's one-year job will be to lobby the Legislature for $3 million to build the first phase of a new Kanab building where education classes can be taught and economic development activities held. Schultz said: "We have already produced a short film about Kanab, that will be shown" to Hollywood producers and others trying to lure new motion picture productions to the unique scenery of southwestern Utah.The Spectrum article listed Kelly Stowell's qualifications as serving internships for U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at the Legislature for his father and at the State Institutional Trust Lands Association. He is currently employed with the Utah Board of Regents as executive director of the Utah Students Association. Schultz said the Regent job was Kelly Stowell's first, full-time position.