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Valley Journals

Councilwoman Weeks’ attorney warns council against making accusations in public meetings

May 30, 2017 12:22PM ● By Kelly Cannon
By Kelly Cannon | kelly@mycityjournals.com
 
During the public comment portion of the May 2 Draper City Council meeting, attorney Mark Shurtleff addressed the council to speak about a letter he had given to the council earlier that day. Representing Councilwoman Michele Weeks in a private capacity, Shurtleff took the time to address the contents of the letter.
 
“The reason I’m here is it’s been brought to my attention by my client that this body, in the past, in public forum and official public meetings of the Draper City Council that there have been some accusations and public reprimands lodged against her,” Shurtleff said. “My request, as her attorney, is to simply remind the council, as myself having been accused of unfounded public comments in the past, we’re simply asking the council to refrain from making those allegations or reprimanding Councilmember Weeks.”
 
In 2008, Shurtleff was accused of corruption and bribery in his capacity as Utah state attorney general by several local news outlets. In 2014, charges were brought against Shurtleff but were dismissed in 2016.
 
In the letter sent to the council, Weeks claims Mayor Troy Walker and members of the city council have used public meetings, including city council meetings, to accuse her of “unethical and unlawful activity related to her office as a member of the Draper City Council.”
 
These instances include the “false allegation of the misuse of public funds by Councilmember Weeks for her use of a city employee … to help with proofreading letters to residents, and some of her ‘What’s Draper Up To?’ Facebook posts to educate the public about city events and actions being considered by the city council.”
 
Weeks claims the use of the employee was allowed through an Americans with Disabilities Act request and with the permission of the city manager.
 
Another instance involved a “false allegation” that Weeks violated state code when she posted a letter titled “Council Corner: Letter from Councilmember Michele Weeks” to her Facebook page “What’s Draper Up To?” The letter has since been deleted.
 
The Utah state code in question, Section 20A-11-1203, deals with a public entity being prohibited from expending public funds on certain electoral matters. Specifically, it says “a public entity may not make an expenditure from public funds for political purposes or to influence a ballot proposition.”
 
Shurtleff claimed that by making these accusations in public meetings, the public may be misled into believing the accusations before they can be officially investigated. Shurtleff ended the letter by asking both the mayor and the council to refrain from using a public meeting to lodge any allegations against Weeks.
 
“If you have a reasonable belief that Councilmember Weeks, or anyone else for that matter, may have violated any Draper City laws or ordinances or Utah state laws or rules of ethics, we ask that you afford her all the constitutional right of due process and refer any such concerns or allegations to the proper authorities for investigation,” Shurtleff said.