SALT LAKE CITY — The FBI and the Davis County Attorney are investigating Lt. Gov. Greg Bell on allegations that, at the request of a personal acquaintance, he ordered an audit of an investigation involving child abuse.
In a Dec. 17, 2012, letter to Gov. Gary Herbert obtained via a GRAMA request by City Weekly, Palmer DePaulis claimed the lieutenant governor had involved himself in a Department of Child and Family Services case "in which he had a personal interest."
DePaulis said he had reassured Bell that the case was being handled correctly and that all policies and procedures had been followed. Despite that, "he ordered an audit that I feared could influence our case," he said.
The audit was of a 2011 case in which a Farmington family had been investigated over allegations of child abuse. The same woman had previously been investigated in 2008. A family member who knew Bell allegedly asked Bell to step in on the case, according to City Weekly.
In a statement released Friday, Bell said, "As additional information emerged, I could not reconcile the widely divergent accounts from DCFS and the family."
If the family's account was true, I would have been irresponsible not to investigate further.
–Lt. Gov. Greg Bell
"If the family's account was true, I would have been irresponsible not to investigate further," he said.
The audit ordered by Bell was noted in pretrial pleadings to be a "defense tool," but was allegedly scaled back when a criminal investigation began in Nov. 2011 in response to a constituent complaint that Bell's actions blurred the line between the executive and judicial branches.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings confirmed Thursday that his office and the FBI are investigating abuse-of-power allegations against Bell. An FBI spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was taking place.
Herbert said in a news conference Friday that Bell's actions were "very appropriate" and something the executive branch does regularly within departments it oversees.
"I've got all the confidence in the world for Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who has not done anything inappropriate," he said. "He is honest as the day is long and is a man without guile."
Bell said his motivation was only to ensure that DCFS was in compliance with the law.
"We are legally authorized to conduct such a review," he said. "I stand behind my actions."
Contributing: Associated Press