Utah commission under scrutiny in push for lands control

By: Brady McCombs, Associated Press, September 7, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers leading the push for the state to seek control of federal lands are under scrutiny again for their work with outside legal consultants, this time for a perceived lack of transparency about what the firm is doing as preparations for a lawsuit drag into a third year with no action.

The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability on Thursday called on the co-chairs of Utah’s Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to produce a full review of expenditures and accused the commission of allowing the $2 million set aside for the project to become “a slush fund.” The group said its numerous public records requests have been denied.

Utah brought in the New Orleans-based Davillier Law Group in 2014 to access the viability and prepare a lawsuit that would attempt to force the U.S. government to hand over control of federal lands that make up about two-thirds of the state.

The firm reimbursed Utah $6,000 last year after a probe found the group had expensed things like first-class airfare, luxury hotels and alcohol that appeared to violate contracts.

“If they are doing this lawsuit why is it taking so long and how is the $2 million being spent?” said Daniel Stevens, the organization’s executive director. “Taxpayers have a right to know what they are getting for it.”

Read the rest of the article here.