Former House speaker attempts to fend off Weyher’s attacks
Summit County Democratic Party chair Rob Weyher says he will beat an election-tampering charge filed against him in Salt Lake County Justice Court because the prosecutor can’t prove where the alleged crime occurred.
Offering a candidate money to withdraw from a political race is a class B misdemeanor punishable in Utah by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Weyher recently pleaded not guilty to one count of violating the law. A pre-trial conference for Weyher is scheduled August 22 at 8:30 a.m.
"This law has been on the books for many, many years and nobody has been charged with it before," Weyher said during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Weyher admits in May he offered to cover Salt Lake City Democrat Josh Ewing’s campaign expenses if Ewing would withdraw from the race to replace state Rep. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, in House District 25. Salt Lake City Democrat Christine Johnson went on to trounce Ewing in the June primary.
Johnson now faces Salt Lake City Republican Kenneth Grover in November.
Heavily Democratic District 25 includes residents in portions of Snyderville and Salt Lake City.
"Even though [Ewing] is a fine young man, he’s very lazy," Weyher said. "I knew he wouldn’t walk the neighborhoods."
Weyher insists he was in Summit County when he made the offer through Ewing’s boss, public relations mogul Tom Love.
"Even though I never left Summit County and their evidence is a telephone recording that I made on a [telephone] that was recorded in Denver, Colorado, I was charged in Salt Lake," Weyher said. "If there was a crime we know it didn’t take place in Salt Lake County. They’re pretty confused."
Johnson won in the primary because 18 volunteers and two full-time Summit County Democratic Party employees passed out literature and "worked the phones very hard coming into that election," Weyher said.
But Weyher insists he is "more focused" of getting Coalville Democrat Laura Bonham elected in November.
"We’ll have two women representing us next January in the state Legislature, two liberal women," Weyher said.
Bonham is vying against Coalville Republican Mel Brown and Jeremy Ranch Libertarian Gary Shumway to replace outgoing state Rep. David Ure, R-Kamas, in House District 53, which includes eastern Summit County, Park City and parts of Snyderville.
"Laura is pure as the driven snow, Mel Brown on the other hand " Weyher said, adding that he forced Park City Republican Jim Shea Jr. from the race so Bonham could run against the more vulnerable Brown.
Brown retired from the Legislature in 2000 after serving seven terms in Utah’s House of Representatives, two as speaker of the House.
"[Brown] was caught accepting a bribe from [U.S. West] and he got censured by the House while he was speaker for having an affair with his administrative aide," Weyher said.
When the allegation Brown accepted a bribe broke in the late 1990s, Brown insists he called for House members to investigate his behavior.
"The decision of a bipartisan committee was, there is nothing here, the man’s exonerated," Brown said about an ethics investigation conducted in the House in 1998. "For [Weyher] to say that I was censured by the Legislature, I wonder what exoneration really means."
Meanwhile, the issue of his relationship with his legislative intern was never discussed in the House, Brown said, adding that his "personal problems" led to a divorce and he has since married the intern.
"I don’t know whether that has to do with politics," he said.
The alleged affair resulted in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disciplining Brown severely, Weyher said.
"I don’t know what my church membership has to do with politics," Brown said Tuesday. "I am a member (of the LDS Church) in good standing and I have served in a lot of church positions."
Brown says he may consider taking "legal action" against Weyher.
"There is no way I can allow Rob Weyher to go around and make allegations that are untrue. It’s easy for a person to make a statement but I think they ought to be held accountable for the truth," he said. "But he’s obviously got his own problems to deal with it."
Weyher also faces criminal charges in Third District Court in Summit County for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, assaulting an officer, interfering with an arrest and failing to signal. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and a trial is scheduled for Weyher in Silver Summit Aug. 30.
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