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Megan Seawright: Provo should not be the home of unethical governance

October 27, 2017 GMT

Back room deals. Off-the-books meetings between elected officials and candidates. A quid pro quo. Attempts by those in positions of power to influence elections.

This is the type of unethical behavior we assume Washington D.C. is rife with, but not here, not in Utah, not in Provo. Yet somehow the Provo mayoral election is bogged down in this same mire.

According to former mayoral candidate Larry Walters, and by city councilman George Stewart’s own admission, Stewart, council member Kim Santiago, and mayoral candidate Odell Miner all tried to convince Walters to drop out of the primary race to give Miner an advantage.

While asking Walters to withdraw, and even asking for his endorsement, which he did not give, doesn’t violate any election laws, it smacks of using positions of authority to influence candidates and the election. But what makes this situation truly problematic is Miner’s complete dismissal of both Walter’s and Stewart’s accounts. He claims this was not the intent of the meeting, even when others present state clearly that it was, and gives no alternative reason for said meeting. No explanation, no transparency, just dismissal.

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Walters also said that after the other council members left, Miner implied an offer of a position on his staff should Walters drop out of the race — a quid pro quo. This is certainly unethical behavior, and a direct violation of election laws. This is not the kind of “good ol’ boys” deals we want in our local government. This is not the type of transparent, ethical governance the residents of Provo want or deserve.

Thus far the only response from Miner has been that Walters misunderstood the intent of the meeting. If this is true, then why did George Stewart corroborate Walters’ account of trying to get him to drop out? Odell Miner, if it was not your intent to influence the election by convincing Walters to withdraw so that you might win, and offer him a position as consolation or compensation, what was your intent? What was the purpose of this meeting?

The people of Provo, whom you claim to want to serve as their mayor, deserve actual answers, not mere dismissals and things swept under the rug. Provo deserves better.

Miner is currently under investigation for this violation of election law, but the investigation is not likely to conclude before Election Day. Residents of Provo deserve a thorough explanation from Miner, or he should withdraw his write-in candidacy.

Voters need to demand an explanation, as well a swift and thorough investigation. Let Miner know we will hold him accountable for his words and actions. We have far too many unethical politicians in this country already. Changing that needs to start with our local elections and making our voices heard. We must stand for ethical candidates who will lead with transparency, honesty, and integrity.