March 29, 2016 FOIA, Government, In The News, News, Utah

Group asks attorney general to investigate Utah lawmaker

Photo: KUTV

By: Hallie Golden, Associated Press, 3/16/2016

A watchdog group said in a complaint Wednesday that a Utah lawmaker improperly used his official email account and a room at the state Capitol while working for his nonprofit that advocates for more state control of public lands.

The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability asked the Utah attorney general to investigate Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan. The group said Ivory improperly used his legislative email to conduct official business for the American Lands Council.

Ivory was a founder of the nonprofit and served as the group’s president until December. He dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

The 141-page complaint said that between 2012 and 2015, Ivory used his legislative email to promote the nonprofit and solicit funds for it.

The complaint includes copies of emails that the Campaign for Accountability obtained through a records request. In one email from his account, Ivory tried to recruit a county in Wyoming to join the American Lands Council.

The complaint also said Ivory used a room at the state Capitol to hold an American Lands Council meeting.

Ivory said he paid for any rooms in the Capitol that the American Lands Council rented, and if he did use his legislative email for the non-profit’s work it was unintentional.

He said the Campaign for Accountability is likely not happy with the work his non-profit group is doing.

“They don’t want to see us continue to have success and they can’t answer for the fact that Washington is treating Western states unequally and unfairly,” he said.

Utah attorney general spokesman Dan Burton said the office doesn’t comment on unresolved complaints or investigations.

Last year, the Campaign for Accountability accused the lawmaker of fraud in his work with the nonprofit. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes ultimately decided not to prosecute, after determining Ivory wouldn’t likely be convicted.

Daniel Stevens of the Campaign for Accountability said his organization filed the latest complaint after requesting files from Reyes’ office from the previous investigation.

Ivory sponsored legislation four years ago that demanded the federal government transfer control of much of the public lands in Utah to the state by 2015. The deadline passed without the federal government offering up about 31 million acres it controls.

In the years since Utah’s governor approved the land demand law, Ivory has traveled the country, particularly the West, marshaling support from local officials and residents. He co-created the tax-exempt nonprofit American Lands Council in 2012 to help with that effort.

He left the American Lands Council in late 2015 to take on a new role directing a new “Free the Lands” project for a national nonprofit called Federalism in Action. He said he still does volunteer work for the American Lands Council.

About 77 percent of the organization’s money comes from offering memberships to individuals, businesses and counties. The memberships range from $50 a year to $25,000 a year.