Campaign for Accountability called on the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to release all communications, documents, and invoices submitted by its law firm, Davillier Law Group, LLC.
Press reports and public documents indicate the Commission has continued to work with Davillier, but the Commission has refused to release any documents or invoices prepared by the law firm. CfA also submitted formal Government Records Access Management Act (“GRAMA”) request to compel the Utah Legislature to release the documents.
CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “The Lands Commission is denying Utah citizens the chance to evaluate the Commission’s work. The Commission’s co-chairs appear to be recklessly spending the $2 million entrusted to them by the legislature while trying to hide the payments from the public. The Commission must come clean and release records showing how Davillier has been spending taxpayer dollars.”
Last June, the Lands Commission released a “Summary of Legal and Relations Services,” which disclosed the Commission’s payments to its contractors, including Davillier. The document revealed that the Commission had instructed Davillier to begin drafting a lawsuit against the federal government. In July, CfA released a review of the Commission’s expenditures and found numerous accounting problems including prohibited expenses, luxurious travel, and inflated charges.
Since then, the Commission’s co-chairs, Sen. David P. Hinkins and Rep. Kevin J. Stratton, have refused to release any documents related to the Commission’s ongoing work with Davillier. The Commission ceased publishing Davilllier’s invoices, which it previously had been uploading regularly to its website. And the legislature failed to release any documents related to Davillier in response to CfA’s four separate GRAMA requests. On May 25, 2017, the Commission submitted a 49-page letter to the Department of the Interior regarding Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review of national monuments. The Commission failed, however, to publish the comments on its own website – even though the comments – largely critiquing the creation of monuments – were prepared by Davillier.
Finally, CfA’s letter documents how the Commission appears to be in violation of its statutory authorization. For instance, the comments submitted to the Department of the Interior violate the requirement that the Commission only focus on the transfer of national lands to state control. The Commission is also required to meet at least eight times per year, but has failed to do so every year since it was created in 2014.
Stevens continued, “The Commissioners have failed to adequately monitor their $2 million budget, and – undoubtedly to hide their failure — have attempted to hide the spending to avoid being held accountable. It’s time for the Senate leadership to step in and require the Commission to immediately release all of its interactions with its legal team so taxpayers can determine whether the Commission is acting lawfully.”