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SALT LAKE CITY — The chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party resigned Sunday morning, following backlash over an email he sent questioning the motives of women who accused a party volunteer of sexual harassment and bullying.
Chairman Scott Miller resigned via email, saying he had "made a mistake" with how he handled the complaints.
"I'm sorry," Miller wrote, according to a screenshot posted by Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. "This morning ... I am immediately resigning my position as the Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman."
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown also confirmed Sunday that Miller had resigned.
Miller's departure comes after Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson released a statement Saturday calling for him to apologize and calling his letter "reprehensible."
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Saturday that several women had come forward with allegations against David Robinson, the county party's communications director, saying he repeatedly used vulgar and derogatory language and bullied others, especially women. In his original email, Miller called out the women by name, questioned their motives and wondered if they were attempting "to disrupt my efforts to become the Utah GOP Chairman."
"I will not be CANCELLED," he wrote.
"Let us be clear: This type of behavior should never happen and when it does we will not tolerate it, ignore it, or explain it away," Cox and Henderson said. "It is unacceptable. The Republican Party needs women in our policymaking and discussions. Sincere apologies are owed to the women who have been victimized and we admire their courage and strength in coming forward. That is not an easy thing to do."
On Saturday, Miller sent a follow-up email with a different tone. "I applaud these women for coming forward and I have encouraged any accusers to come forward," he said. "I take these allegations seriously."
The Salt Lake County Republican Party said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon that the party's executive committee had scheduled a meeting with Miller to discuss the issue and disciplinary action, which would potentially have ranged from "discussion to censure to the potential for removal from office." He resigned before the meeting occurred.
"Recent accounts have accused the Salt Lake County Republican Party Officers and the Executive Committee of inaction on some complaints," the statement said. "To correct the record — when the first official complaint was received by the Executive Committee it took immediate action. Once the accusations were reported the Executive Committee made multiple efforts to have the Chair see to it that the behavior ended. Not only did the Executive Committee address the initial complaint, it also reached out and requested information from others who might also have concerns and asked them to submit formal written complaints."
The executive committee discussed the complaints in a closed session and believed that the situation would be remedied, party officials wrote.
Acting Chair Scott Rosenbush issued an apology Sunday to candidates, volunteers and any others who have felt mistreated by the Salt Lake County Republican Party.
"This is not who we are as a County or as a Party," Rosenbush wrote. "We can and will do better."
Several local Republicans welcomed the news of Miller's resignation online. "I look forward to working with new leadership in the county party," said Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman.
"Scott Miller wasn't cancelled," Winder Newton said. "He was held accountable."
Later, on Facebook, she encouraged Utahns to make a change by getting more involved in local politics. "The more good people that we have that run," she said, "the more it weeds out bad actors, like these guys." Winder Newton also said Utahns should "stand up for those who are being abused and harassed."
In a joint statement issued Saturday and updated again Sunday, a coalition of Salt Lake County Republicans had called for Miller's resignation and said his words "were unacceptable and do not represent the values of the Republican Party."
"As Republican legislators representing Salt Lake County, we condemn this behavior and are grateful for the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences."
Brown said Sunday that he supports Miller's resignation "and will work closely with the county party to ensure that the upcoming convention is successful."
"Yesterday's public revelation of David Robinson's abhorrent behavior towards some of the most respected women in our party, and Miller's own role in that behavior, show me we have work to do," Brown said in a statement. "Before ever speaking with the press, these women bravely raised their concerns with county party leadership, and nothing was done. That is unacceptable.
"During my chairmanship, I have spent countless hours working side by side with brilliant and dedicated Republican women, including every woman who was quoted in the Tribune article. I am personally grateful for their contribution to our party and their courage.
"I have seen, firsthand, how many women face an uphill battle in the political arena, including within my own party. We have more work to do, and I am committed to doing it."
Brown is not running for reelection, and the party will select a new state chair on May 1. "I am confident our delegates will elect a Chair committed to continuing this work, and ensuring that no woman ever has a similar experience again," Brown said. "I also commit, after my Chairmanship has concluded, that my volunteer efforts with the Republican Party will focus on continuing to recruit, support, and help elect amazing female candidates."