PROVO — A former Provo City councilman once charged with fraud is now suing the Utah County attorney for what he called "malicious" and improper prosecution designed to oust him from office.
Steve Turley, who bowed to calls for his resignation in September 2011 after fraud charges were filed against him, is suing for unspecified punitive damages and legal fees over the case that he says stemmed from "a multi-year effort by (his) legal and political foes to remove him from office and harm his business dealings," according to a complaint filed Thursday in 4th District Court.
The civil rights lawsuit names the Utah County Attorney's Office, County Attorney Jeff Buhman, and investigator Richard Hales, and claims "malicious prosecution," abuse of process, civil conspiracy and a violation of Utah rules of professional conduct.
Following his 2003 win in "a bitterly contested election," the lawsuit claims that Turley often found himself at odds with his fellow council members. After a rival on the council, Councilwoman Cindy Richards, was ousted from her seat in 2009, meetings were held "in an effort to gather as much inflammatory information about Mr. Turley as possible and to use that information to run him out of office," the lawsuit states.
Ultimately, 23 Provo residents filed a conflict-of-interest complaint against Turley, citing several instances in which the councilman allegedly used his public position for personal financial gain, sparking an investigation by the Utah County Attorney's Office.
Learning of the investigation, Turley and his attorney went to meet with Buhman and Richards. During a recess in the conversation, Turley and his attorney were left to talk in a conference room, and when Buhman and Richards returned, Turley was informed that the conversation had been recorded via closed-circuit camera and that prosecutors had been listening in real time, according to the lawsuit.
The tape was destroyed following objections from Turley and his attorney.
Charges were later filed against Turley alleging that between July 2006 and December 2009 Turley used his position for financial gain. Three counts of communication fraud, a second-degree felony, were dismissed in November 2013, while remaining charges were dismissed in February 2015.
The lawsuit claims that the prosecution was "malicious and improper," leading to "significant damages, including (Turley) funding a nearly four-year litigation effort to defeat the bogus criminal charges, irreparable damage to Turley's reputation and business dealings and severe emotional distress."
Turley spoke out in February 2015 when the case was dismissed, asserting his innocence and calling the years spent fighting the allegations "a nightmare."
"It has devastated our family, and it's a shame we had to go through that — that some overzealous prosecutors had the ability to do that to an innocent family's life," Turley said at the time. "I don't know how something like this can be made right."
No hearings have been scheduled regarding the lawsuit.