County files charges against Provo councilman Turley

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The Utah County Attorney’s office filed felony charges Wednesday against Provo City Council member Steve Turley.

In the wake of the 10 second-degree felony charges, filed in Fourth Judicial District Court, Provo Mayor John Curtis and the other four council members sent a letter to Turley, encouraging him to resign.

Turley has been under fire from some Provo citizens, who have alleged in council meetings that he has used his office for personal gain.

But Turley’s attorney, Brett Tolman, said it’s significant the county charges are in no way related to inappropriate use of his position.

“It’s in some ways a very remarkable charging document,” Tolman said, pointing out there are 10 charges supported by “only a page and a half of probable cause statements.”

The county charges include seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and one count of pattern of unlawful activity.

Tolman described the communications fraud charges as “kind of a catch-all” charge, often used when prosecutors can’t come up with anything more specific. He said “4 or 5” of the charges relate to business transactions that are already the subjects of civil litigation and would have been best left to that arena.

The court document’s probable cause statements state that between July 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2009, Turley “engaged in a course of conduct to defraud others or obtain money, property or other items by means of false or fraudulent pretenses …”

The document then cites Turley’s alleged offenses, including:

— persuading purchasers of a home he was building to raise their offer price to $265,000, while promising that the actual amount they paid would be $172,000, and then going to the bank for a loan on the higher amount.

— ordering cabinets for accessory apartments for two homes he was building, and assuring the prospective buyers that accessory apartments would be acceptable, though the zoning for those homes did not allow accessory apartments.

— convincing an elderly person to sign a deed over to him in a property swap, then failing to complete the swap and later taking a loan out on the person’s property.

— persuading a physically and mentally impaired elderly person to sign over a life lease on her residence without any compensation.

— negotiating with a woman to reopen a restaurant in Springville, while leasing the same restaurant property to another person.

— presenting a copy of a $2.6 million check as proof that he had funds to enforce an option to purchase a property, though he did not have the actual check, nor did the owner of the funds intend to let him use the money.

— misrepresenting his interest in a “reclamation” project in Slate Canyon; telling some interested parties it would not be used as a gravel pit from which he would make a profit, while making arrangements with a construction company to do just that.

The Slate Canyon situation has been one of the chief causes of ire from citizens who have spoken out against Turley in council meetings.

“Mr. Turley has been somewhat demonized, whether because of his own actions or his positions,” Tolman said, “but this is a good man.”

While acknowledging that Turley has yet to be proven guilty, the letter from the council urged him to submit his resignation.

“We believe that the confidence of the citizens of Provo in the integrity of their government has been compromised by the filing of these charges and we must call for your resignation in the strongest possible terms in keeping with our strong commitment to ethical conduct,” the letter stated.

The council also noted that the effort Turley will be forced to give in his defense against the indictments will compromise his ability to fill his council role.

Additionally, the letter stated that a citizen group indicated at a July 12 council meeting its intention to file complaints against Turley relating to the Government Officials’ and Employees’ Ethics Act. If, however, Turley resigns before those allegations are received, an investigation would no longer be necessary.

Asked if Turley planned to resign, Tolman said, “Those are decisions he has to make … I think he’ll do what’s best for Provo and what’s best for him.”

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