More than two months have passed since the commission’s leaders promised to spend 30 days investigating questionable billing practices
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2016
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following more than two months of stalling by the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) today formally requested that the commission immediately release the findings of its internal investigation into abuse of taxpayer funds by attorneys and consultants the commission hired to study the feasibility of forcing the federal government to relinquish 31 million acres of Utah’s public land.
CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann said, “The public expects elected officials to honor their commitments. Utahans have a right to see the results of the audit and judge for themselves whether their taxpayer dollars were properly spent and the commission kept a close enough eye on its highly compensated consultants.”
In July, CfA sent a letter to commission co-chairs Sen. David Hinkins and and Rep. Keven Stratton, demanding an audit of the commission’s expenditures. CfA had reviewed invoices released by the commission and discovered numerous examples of luxury travel, billing inconsistencies, and what appear to be prohibited lobbying expenditures, charged to Utah taxpayers. In the wake of the public outcry, the co-chairs – pledging transparency – promised an internal review of the expenditures to be completed within 30 days. More than two months later, the results have yet to be released.
Consultants hired by the commission submitted invoices seeking reimbursement for first-class air travel, stays at luxury hotels, and meal expenses that included alcohol – all prohibited by the contracts. They also billed the state for higher priced legal services when actually working on creating marketing materials like a promotional video and an op-ed.
In July, the commission co-chairs told the Salt Lake Tribune they planned to seek reimbursement or discounts from the contractors to cover the cost of the prohibited expenses. They have not announced whether they followed through with this.
Ms. Weismann continued, “To quell public outrage when this story broke, Sen. Hinkins and Rep. Stratton promised a complete accounting. Now out of the spotlight’s glare, however, they seem much less interested in revealing the results of the audit. Was the audit even conducted or were the results simply too embarrassing to disclose? Exactly what is the commission hiding from Utah citizens?”
CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.