PLEASANT GROVE — Pleasant Grove’s mayor, Mike Daniels, is accused of violating state law after penning a controversial op-ed published in the city’s monthly newsletter.
The mayor, who did not run for re-election Tuesday, wrote a 500-word letter to the city urging citizens to vote “no” on a proposition appearing on the city’s ballot. The letter was published in Pleasant Grove’s November newsletter just a few days before the election.
A group of citizens created the proposition in the hopes of allocating more money to rebuild and repair roads in the city. Daniels argued that the city’s roads were not an acute emergency that required extra funds.
“Vote No on Prop 3 and encourage your newly elected mayor and council to finish fully funding roads while maintaining existing services,” the mayor wrote in the newsletter.
Proposition 3 received nearly 2,000 of about 6,000 votes and did not pass. Now, the mayor is being accused of violating state law by the same citizens who created the voter initiative.
The group filed complaints with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, according to Pleasant Grove citizen Jacob Zonts, a supporter of Proposition 3. The citizens claim the letter violated state law that prohibits public entities from expending public funds on certain electoral matters and using public email for a political purpose.
The newsletter was emailed from the city to Pleasant Grove citizens, according to Zonts. It was also physically mailed to those in the city who had chosen to opt out of electronic communication, he said. The newsletter is currently posted on the city’s website.
“The preparation, mailing and posting of the newsletter all use taxpayer funds,” Zonts said. “Unfortunately, we (had) no recourse since it was so close to the election.”
Paul Jones, deputy county attorney with the Utah County Attorney’s Office, said they are aware of the complaints and are conducting an investigation, though he could not comment further.
When contacted, Daniels deferred to the Pleasant Grove City attorney, Christine Petersen, who said the complaint has been forwarded to the Utah County Clerk Auditor’s office for investigation.
“Pleasant Grove really wouldn't be able to comment on the incident until after the County has made a decision on whether there was actually a violation or not,” Petersen wrote in an email.
And though Zonts knows the election is over, he hopes something will change.
“We were just deeply disturbed by their actions,” he said. “There’s definitely a problem here in Pleasant Grove, and it’s not just the roads.”