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Provo Mayor Denies Any Cover Up in Botched 911 Call

Provo Mayor Denies Any Cover Up in Botched 911 Call



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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The mayor is denying a family's claim that he tried to cover up a botched 911 call that sent rescue personnel to a wrong address.

Scott Aston, 30, placed the call to 911 on Oct. 1, but dispatchers heard the wrong address and sent the ambulance to a different address. When no apartment or house was found, the search was called off.

Aston's body was found four days later.

Aston's family now wants Provo Mayor Lewis Billings to turn over information that could either confirm or disprove their concerns that Provo police and city officials hid the existence of 911 call until Billings called Aston's parents on Nov. 29.

Members of Aston's family believe Billings only told them about the call because they were going to find out when they received copies of a medical examiner's report and the police records about Aston's death.

"I don't think Lewis Billings would have made that call if we hadn't asked for that police report," said Dale Aston, a brother.

Billings denies the charge. He said that once the police department tied the discovery of Aston's body to the 911 call four days earlier, city administrators resolved to investigate any errors.

"We certainly were not going to tell anyone anything without all the facts," he said.

Billings said he wanted to wait for the completion of the autopsy, an internal investigation and an external review by the Ogden Police Department. Then, he wanted to determine if disciplinary action was warranted against the two dispatchers involved in the mishandled call and that new policies and procedures were in place at the dispatch center.

But the autopsy shed no light on the cause of Aston's death. That report and Ogden's review were complete at the beginning of November. The city fired the dispatcher who took the call, disciplined another dispatcher and implemented policy changes.

The Astons say Provo has failed to provide information, however.

For example, they didn't know about the Ogden police review until two weeks ago, and it still hasn't been made public.

The Deseret Morning News requested a copy of the investigation results and other city documents related to Aston's death on March 15. The city has not yet responded to the request even though Utah's government record access law requires the city to respond to the request within five days.

The city asked the family to request in writing copies of any government documents regarding the case, including copies of the recorded 911 call Aston made the day he died. They were required to cite the Government Records Access and Management Act as the reason the city should give them the records.

Provo spokeswoman Raylene Ireland said the formality is necessary because it creates a record of the family's questions.

Billings said his decisions were not directed by a possible lawsuit against Provo because cities are granted broad immunity involving emergency response.

The Astons and city officials have engaged in negotiations about a possible settlement.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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