David Irvine, an attorney for the political issues committee Let Orem Vote, filed a complaint on Oct. 10 of “electioneering” to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox against UVU regarding its position on the Palos Verdes student housing development.
Let Orem Vote opposes the student housing development and successfully petitioned Orem City to place the rezoning of the housing project on the November 2018 ballot.
UVU’s Board of Trustees issued a statement Sept. 7 that expressed its support for the private student housing development. This statement upset Let Orem Vote.
“Let Orem Vote requests that these matters be quickly and fully investigated to determine whether our election law is being violated by the actions of UVU and Alpine School District officers and personnel,” Irvine wrote in the complaint to Cox.
Mark Tippets, head of Let Orem Vote said, “We are concerned that the public entities promoting the project are using public resources to influence the election in their favor.”
“In accordance with Utah’s election law that applies to public entities (the Political Activities of Public Entities Act), Utah Valley University posted a brief statement on September 7, 2018 about its position on Proposition 5, the reasons for the University’s position, and links to opponents’ and proponents’ websites. In this and in all respects, UVU fully complied with the election law and welcomes a review by the Lieutenant Governor’s office,” university spokesperson Scott Trotter said.
The complaint says that the Trustees’ statement was created and distributed “on government time” and violates Utah code regulating public institutions’ participation in elections.
Irvine’s complaint also requests that UVU give equal time to Let Orem Vote’s viewpoint in their campaign materials because of its status as a public institution.
The complaint contains five “examples of communications prepared and distributed” by UVU employees regarding the Palos Verdes student housing development.
The first example takes issue with the Campus Drive Student Housing website paid for by Orem Families for UVU, another PIC, and a supporter of the student housing development. because the website’s contacts are closely related to UVU. The contacts listed are Cameron Martin of UVU, Taylor Woodbury of Woodbury Corporation and Kyle Jardine of PEG Development.
Martin is the vice president of university relations at UVU. PEG Development’s CEO, Cameron Gunter, and Woodbury are both members of UVU’s Foundation Board.
PEG is the private developer of the Palos Verdes neighborhood and is also the primary financial contributor to Orem Families for UVU.
Tippets said that these relationships might create a conflict of interest around the issue.
“At this point, some things at UVU looks odd and doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said.
The complaint affirms this by saying that the Woodbury Corporation is positioned to make “a great deal of money from this project” and that Taylor Woodbury’s involvement with the Foundation is “a potential conflict of interest.”
Public records show that PEG has donated more than $113,673 to Orem Families for UVU over the past several months.
Let Orem Vote’s complaint called on Cox to investigate its claims and determine if UVU and Alpine School District have violated Utah law.