Fast Bucks | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Cover Story

Fast Bucks

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams calls foul on his former campaign manager, Justin Miller



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Screening For Charges
How does the county investigate itself?

Two days after Rep. Justin Miller filed a notice of claim against the Salt Lake County Mayor's Office, District Attorney Sim Gill attempted to answer the challenge by initially walling himself off from the criminal investigation. Meanwhile, his civil division chief Ralph Chamness, sent a letter addressed to both the DA's criminal division Chief Deputy Jeff Hall and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

To forestall any conflict of interest, Chamness took the unusual route of asking Hall to investigate McAdams' allegations related to Miller and send them to Rawlings to decide whether or not Miller should be charged. If Rawlings found that charges were warranted, Chamness wanted him to file them in Salt Lake County. "If criminal charges are filed against Mr. Miller, this office intends to handle the resulting criminal prosecution," Chamness wrote.

Keeping the criminal prosecution largely in-house, however, was an approach that was later abandoned. Rawlings noted in an emailed statement to City Weekly that "given the potential conflicts and surrounding issues, the Salt Lake County DA's office agreed that the December 19 letter did not outline the best, most practical or viable procedure." In February 2015, Chamness wrote a second letter to Hall and Rawlings noting that the latter would both screen and prosecute charges, if any were forthcoming, against Miller.

Gill, a Democrat, and Rawlings, a Republican, have formed a formidable bi-partisan team when it comes to tackling high-profile political crimes. For instance, Gill's office is prosecuting former Attorney General John Swallow, while Rawlings is prosecuting Mark Shurtleff, Swallow's predecessor.

When it came to the Miller investigation, Gill initially distanced himself from a criminal investigation into Miller, in part, he acknowledges, because of perception issues related to McAdams' campaign donating $6,000 to the Elect Sim Gill campaign in October 2014, in the midst of the final turmoil of Miller's departure.

By the end of February 2015, Gill's civil division had investigated Miller's complaints against McAdams, the Dunns and Exoro, and found them to be without merit.

Even still, in his statement to City Weekly, Rawlings wrote that Miller was both presumed to be, and may well be, innocent, and that no charges had been filed. His office would be looking at "all allegations, defenses, and possible innocent explanations."

City Weekly asked Salt Lake County's Gill if Rawlings' statement could be construed to mean that Rawlings is also investigating the county mayor's office. "I need Troy to make an independent judgment and evaluation," Gill said. "I want him to chase out the truth, wherever the evidence leads him." He continued, "He's a competent and honorable professional. He's going to do what he's going to do.

Staff writer Colby Frazier contributed to this story.