BY MICHELLE L. PRICE
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Utah lawmaker purchased at least two hotel rooms with taxpayer money that he is accused of using to meet up with a prostitute last year, according to documents reviewed by a legislative official.
The DailyMail.com reported allegations Thursday that former Republican Rep. Jon Stanard twice hired a prostitute last year, leading House and state elections officials to review whether public funds or campaign money were used for hotel stays that the report alleges Stanard used for the trysts.
House Chief of Staff Greg Hartley told The Associated Press in a text message that Stanard, who abruptly resigned Tuesday, was reimbursed for hotel rooms in Salt Lake City in June and August 2017 when he was attending legislative meetings at the state Capitol. He lives four hours away in the resort town of St. George.
The dates and hotel names correspond with text messages reported by the DailyMail.com.
Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes said he didn’t yet know if the House would ask Stanard to return the money.
“If there has been an abuse of public funds or if public funds were used in a way that’s inappropriate, we would,” Hughes said. “I don’t have solid answers for those things. I would need to have a way that I would know conclusively that that is the case.”
Phone and text messages to Stanard’s personal cellphone were not returned, but it indicated he read the texts seeking comment. His lawyer, Wally Bugden, declined to comment and did not respond to a follow-up email asking if he was denying the allegations.
Hughes said he did not yet know the House’s next steps to determine if the report was correct.
It was unclear if legislative leaders would be able to check whether Stanard used a state-issued cellphone to arrange encounters with the prostitute because it had been erased and no longer contained his text messages.
Hughes said he assumed Stanard erased his phone, not staffers, and he didn’t know if there was a way to recover the texts.
House officials said they can’t launch an ethics investigation because Stanard is no longer a lawmaker.
Stanard, who is married, had served five years in the House. He voted last year for stricter state prostitution laws, including raising the penalty for people who are convicted twice of solicitation.
The House announced his resignation Wednesday for “personal and family concerns” but did not offer details. That day, Stanard told the AP in a text message: “My father has terminal cancer and I am going to spend a few weeks with him out of state while I still can.”
He did not offer additional information.
The DailyMail.com reported that a prostitute, Brie Taylor, said Stanard twice paid her for sex last year during business trips to Salt Lake City and that he arranged the meetings with a number for a state-issued phone listed on his legislative profile.
The news site posted screenshots of messages that Taylor said came from Stanard, but the phone number was blurred out.
Taylor did not respond to a text message asking her to confirm the phone number and declined to speak with the AP.
Stanard’s 2017 campaign finance report shows he submitted an expense on March 10 for $1,510 for “extra hotel expense session lodging” at the “Marriott Residence.”
Text messages in the DailyMail.com story allege that Stanard was arranging for a visit with Taylor at the Marriott Residence Inn on March 8.
Utah Elections Director Justin Lee said state law bars personal use of campaign funds and that election officials were looking over Stanard’s reports.
The House speaker said that when Stanard met with him Tuesday night to tell him he was resigning, “there were issues that were weighing on him. What exactly and to the nature, I wasn’t aware. But it was clear that his priority was with his family and was not here.”
Hughes would not say if Stanard spoke about the allegations, calling it a personal conversation but “it ran the gamut of problems” and “I did not know there was a story coming, I’ll just say that.”
Salt Lake City police say they have no record related to solicitation allegations against Stanard. Unified Police Department of Salt Lake County said it had no record of contact with him.
“I was absolutely shocked. I had never heard anything, there was nothing in my interaction — I sit next to him on the House floor — nothing in my interaction that’s ever suggesting anything even remotely close to what we’re seeing today,” GOP Rep. Mike McKell said.
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.
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