Were the City’s Rodeo Donations Fraudulent?

rodeo-sign

Just when we all thought the city’s rodeo drama was over, a new scandal has emerged. Apparently, the Pony Express Days Rodeo Committee never got formal approval from the IRS to operate as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity.

In a March 18, 2014 public meeting Jared Gray, a director of the committee’s board of trustees, explicitly stated that they were a “501 non-profit.” They have also heavily implied as much in the marketing material they have produced since then.

But if the Rodeo Committee never actually filed an application to become one, they might have committed fraud against the taxpayers and sponsors who subsequently relied upon their statements to justify their donations. If the Rodeo Committee filed an application but it got denied by the IRS, and they never told anyone, they have a whole host of other problems. But we don’t know exactly what happened because they haven’t responded to multiple requests for proof of their tax-exempt status.

To make matters worse, Mayor Pengra explicitly stated in this same public hearing that he had personally verified that the Rodeo Committee was a 501(c)3 charity. City Administrator Ifo Pili and City Attorney Jeremy Cook also apparently failed to verify that the Rodeo Committee was legit before they arranged the city’s donations to it.

City residents should know that even though there are no longer any specific appropriations for the rodeo and its associated events in the city’s budgets, they still get a substantial amount of non-monetary support from taxpayers. I don’t believe the Rodeo Committee (now known as Pony Express Events) pays anything for the police services, utilities, and marketing assistance it receives from the city. I also believe it only pays $1 for its use of the rodeo grounds. It may even have access to city-owned equipment and other resources which they use for free.

If you would like to learn more about how deceitful, incompetent, and/or corrupt this whole arrangement has been, you’ll want to read the public statement I made to the council at the May 17, 2016 budget hearing as well as browse through the research material that backs up my assertions. The proof is damning.

EMC-Rodeo-501c3-backup-docs

What’s really disturbing is that when I brought this potential fraud to the attention of Mayor Pengra and the council, the mayor wasn’t upset at Wendy Lojik or Jared Gray, the former president and current president of the rodeo committee. He was incensed with me for exposing the scandal!

It is also slightly troubling that the council remained stubbornly silent and never asked Lojik to explain herself when she got up and told them everything was in order. It would have been nice if they had at least challenged her a bit and asked her to explain the current status of her application, if it even exists. Maybe they were just too shell-shocked to respond to the unfolding drama.

What is really telling is that Lojik claimed that she had hired one of Utah’s best law firms to represent the committee in this matter. Normally, people don’t hire the best (and probably most expensive) lawyers to handle routine charity filings. They usually hire the best only when they think they are in real trouble.

While we wait for the rest of this drama to unfold there are two things that should happen: (1) the city should immediately withhold all taxpayer resources from the rodeo committee going forward, and (2) residents should boycott the city’s Pony Express Days events.

We should not be doing business with or patronizing a dishonest organization.

—–

To watch a good summary of why citizens have been opposed to funding the rodeo in the past, check out this clip of Jen Morrison’s public statement dated March 18, 2014. It’s very succinct.

Jen Morrison
https://youtu.be/jyu_Bq1qJaY?t=16m31s

Donna Burnham: The Political Windsock

burnham-mugOn March 4, 2016 Donna Burnham announced via her friends at the Daily Herald that she was running for the Utah House District 2 seat that is being vacated by David Lifferth (R). This district includes Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. But before voters do anything crazy–like put her in charge of voting on even bigger government budgets–they really ought to learn a little about her not-so “conservative” record in Eagle Mountain.

During Burnham’s tenure as an Eagle Mountain City council member the city’s employees and elected officials regularly used the city’s credit cards to buy meals for themselves, their colleagues, and sometimes even their family members at area restaurants and stores.

food
After I discovered the true scope of the city’s eating disorders I asked Burnham and the other council members to remove all the food money from the city’s FY 2016 budget during the city’s annual budget hearing. This is part of what Burnham had to say when she refused my request:

Audio clip: http://eagleshare.org/audio/donna-short.mp3

Burnham actually bragged about paying for two of her own meals! What kind of politician does that? Maybe someone who is used to taxpayers footing the bill for her?

In fact, during one infamous Christmas party at Mayor Heather Jackson’s house, Burnham and the other council members ate food which was purchased using money the mayor (or her assistant) got by inappropriately cashing the city’s annual cash rebate check from Costco. This private party was also famous because the mayor had her personal assistant help her clean her house before her political guests arrived.

If you want to understand why Burnham thought it was worth bragging about paying for her own meal after a State Library Board meeting, all you’ve got to do is browse these summaries of the city’s meal purchases:

http://eagleshare.org/pdfs/food-totals-employee.pdf

http://eagleshare.org/pdfs/EMC-city-council-food-purchases-2010-2013.pdf

The city’s 2010-2013 credit card statements are chock full of examples of city employees and elected officials who used taxpayer money to pay for meals before and after public meetings. It seemed to be a common practice to use any excuse available to justify eating out on the taxpayer dime. And it doesn’t appear that Burnham had any problems with these expenditures while they were happening. She only seemed to discover her conscience after I exposed the city’s spending problems.

But it gets worse! When I tried get copies of all of the city’s credit card statements for the 2010-2013 period, Mayor Pengra refused to turn over many of them and I never heard Burnham once condemn the cover-up. Instead, she actually defended the city’s leaders and their spending habits.

List of missing credit card statements: http://eagleshare.org/pdfs/missing-cc-statements.pdf

Audio clip supporting leaders:  http://eagleshare.org/audio/donna-support.mp3

Voters should not reward Burnham with higher office after she failed to protect them in Eagle Mountain. She’s obviously just a campaign conservative who turns into a political windsock the minute she gets into power. And the winds of government are generally not friendly to taxpayers.

If you want to learn more about Burnham’s true record on the Eagle Mountain City Council, please read the following report. It’s a doozy.

Pigs in Suits: A Citizen Audit of Eagle Mountain City’s 2010-2013 Credit Card Statements

If you want to learn more about how Burnham sees herself, you can find her campaign website here:
http://www.vote4donna.com

2015 Municipal Election Results

The results are in and every single incumbent politician has now been replaced! Here are the official election results for 2015:

2015-general-election-results

Incumbents that have left us:

Mayor Heather Jackson — defeated by voters 2013
Council Member Nate Ochsenhirt — defeated by voters 2013
John Painter — chose not to run for re-election 2013
Rich Steinkopf — defeated by voters 2015
Donna Burnham — chose not to run for re-election 2015
Ryan Ireland — chose to not run for re-election 2015

Thank you Eagle Mountain City voters!

Current Eagle Mountain Elected Officials:

Mayor Chris Pengra
Council Member Adam Bradley
Council Member Tom Westmoreland
Council Member Stephanie Gricius
Council Member Ben Reaves
Council Member Colby Curtis

Hopefully, with a new slate of officers this city can finally clean up its act.

Help Wanted: Door hanger hangers, Pay: lower taxes

 

Whew! I never knew the mere anticipation of my door hangers being distributed throughout the city could cause so much angst on Facebook!

If you want to see what all the hullaballoo is about, check out the scanned copy of the door hanger below and then read on about why this door hanger is the absolute best way to help clean up the corruption in our city.

2015-doorhanger

While I’ve made it a policy to never respond to personal attacks against me, especially on Facebook, I feel compelled to make a few remarks in defense of the work I’ve been doing to clean up the city’s corruption over the last few years.

When I first started getting involved in city politics in late 2011 I quickly learned that consulting with the city’s officials politely and in private doesn’t work. During this time I contacted our public officials to request that our utility rates be published on our bills, but I was quickly blown off by Mayor Heather Jackson and her administrators who claimed it would cost too much to make this simple change.

Of course, their response was complete hogwash and it made me suspect that they were cheating us somehow by playing fast and loose with our bills. After all, no other utility in the nation that I knew of hid their rates the way Eagle Mountain did.

After this initial failure to bring transparency to our utility bills I decided to change my approach with the city. I decided to get a little snarky and ridicule their lack of transparency in a very public way via my website. But first, I wanted to perform a real analysis of the city’s utility rates to see if I could find out what was really going on.

To my surprise, city residents were paying about 20 percent more for their combined utilities (gas, electric, sewer, water, etc.) than the average Utah County resident. And the natural gas rates they paid were far above the price the city paid for natural gas on the wholesale market. These enormous price differentials amounted to a HUGE stealth tax that made it so the city had lots of extra money rolling in, which government bureaucracies always like.

When I wrote about this and publicly ridiculed the city for its scam, what do you think happened? City residents went online and publicly complained about their high bills for weeks and the city got scared. Shortly after, Mayor Jackson lowered the natural gas rates she charged residents to more accurately reflect the wholesale rates the city actually paid. This saved every one of us hundreds of dollars a year and collectively saved the city’s residents millions. Ifo Pili, the city’s administrator, also reversed course and announced that he would start publishing the utility rates on our bills as soon as possible.

This experience taught me a very important lesson about dealing with corrupt government officials: it’s important to publicly express how you think AND feel when you communicate with them. If you talk to them in private and only do so in a dispassionate way, they will generally blow you off. But if you communicate with them in public and you are passionate about your positions, you can be amazingly effective.

During this current election cycle I decided to try and make even more improvements to the city, but this time around things turned out differently because the crooks were prepared for my assault.

When I finally published my analysis of the city’s credit card spending online in April 2015, the city’s supporters instantly went on the offensive and spent days attacking my character in the “Eagle Mountain City Citizens” Facebook group while almost never discussing the 78 pages of facts and backup documentation that I had published. After this torrid offensive no one else in the city thought it would be productive to publicly discuss the city’s spending online lest they also become the subject of a harassment campaign.

Even though Mayor Pengra has reduced the amount of pork in the city’s budgets since he took office, there are still thousands of dollars left in it for employee food and clothing purchases. And when I asked the city council to remove all of the food money from the city’s budgets–which I thought would be the least controversial request I could make–every single council member declined despite the overwhelming evidence that the city’s employees were still abusing the city’s credit cards. Why?

The answer: no one else but me has publicly and loudly complained about the pork. And without a strong public response against it, Pengra and the council rightly concluded that they could keep eating our money without any consequences, literally. (The council gets free meals too.)

While I totally agree with the silent majority that going online and engaging in a war of words with Pengra’s peanut gallery is totally pointless, we still have to fight them in order to stop their spending. And the best way to do that is to educate voters about the true scope of the problems so they can vote for the toughest council candidates this election cycle.

Since none of our local newspapers have seen fit to cover this massive spending scandal and the following cover-up, the only way we can really influence the election is to bypass them completely and communicate directly with our neighbors. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is with door hangers but they require a lot of work to pass out.

So far, I’ve spent about $1,500 of my own money obtaining copies of the city’s credit card statements and printing up door hangers. I’ve also spent about 1,000 man-hours over the last 18 months compiling all the data and appealing through the state’s law enforcement hierarchy to get some accountability. But so far, we’ve been completely abandoned by the state’s Republican establishment. They don’t want to prosecute any fraud in our city. What this means is that we can’t rely on any outside authority to clean up Eagle Mountain for us; we must win this election and clean it up ourselves.

If you would like to help educate your neighbors about the city’s ongoing corruption by passing out door hangers, please send me an email. If we can get enough people to help, we can quickly cover the whole city and make sure that every voter can make an informed choice on August 11th.

If you do decide to help, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reaction you’ll get from most of your neighbors. Our city is full of honest people who really want to get rid of the corruption; they just don’t know what to do about it. These door hangers give them something to do and they are usually very grateful for it.

But if you decide to do nothing–as most of the city has done for the last 18 years–this city will continue to remain a cesspool of political corruption and Mayor Pengra and his peanut gallery will continue to dole out your money as pork to the city’s employees and his favorite political constituencies.

It’s your choice.

Kind regards,

Sam Allen
samallen@eagleshare.org

Romney Institute of Public Management Honors Ifo Pili

This larger than life banner celebrating Eagle Mountain City Administrator Ifo Pili’s success now hangs in the atrium of the Marriott School on BYU Campus.IMG_20150501_160813065

Shortly after becoming the city’s chief administrator in fiscal year 2013 Pili started raising the salaries of the city’s employees dramatically. I’m sure they were grateful even if the city’s taxpayers weren’t!

EMC-salary

Mayor Jackson Pulls a Fast One

City residents recently received the following notice about radical changes that a local developer wants to make within the city before Mayor Heather Jackson leaves office. Shouldn’t major changes like these be left to the next administration instead of being forced through during a lame duck session? Certainly, there isn’t enough time to thoroughly debate these changes during the holiday season when most people would rather focus on their families. The timing of this proposal is awfully fishy.

last-gift-to-developers

Building Department Fails Residents Again

On December 2, 2013 a local concrete contractor poured the pads for a garage and basement without any thermal protection even through temps that night and in the following days reached far below freezing. This was strictly against the city’s building codes and it guaranteed that the future owner of this house will be stuck with weakened concrete that will most likely chip in the coming years.

What makes this oversight so egregious is that a local resident saw the same thing happen the previous week at a couple other homes down the street. When he complained to the building department, the building inspector made a big show of taking pictures of the incorrectly poured concrete, but then seemed to do nothing to stop it from happening again the next week.

Here is a copy of the city’s cold weather concrete requirements:

cold-concrete-standards

Now here is a copy of the weather report on Dec 4, 2012, the date the following pictures were taken.

http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KPVU/2013/12/4/DailyHistory.html?req_city=Eagle+Mountain&req_state=UT&req_statename=Utah

Here are two pictures of the affected property:

IMG_20131204_143347IMG_20131204_143419

Kent Partridge is the Chief Building Official for the city. His email address is: kpartridge@emcity.org. You’d think that a guy who makes over $125k a year would be able to make sure the city’s concrete is poured correctly, especially after being warned about the problem, but apparently that isn’t the case.

http://www.utahsright.com/profile.php?id=2678121

Election Fraud in Eagle Mountain

During the August 13, 2013 municipal primary election in Eagle Mountain City there were numerous irregularities in the vote counting process that prompted me to investigate the possibility that the election might have been stolen. After a couple weeks of research I compiled my findings in a report, which I then forwarded to various government officials around the state in the hope that we could get a recount that would conclusively determine whether the election results were honest or fraudulent. To my disappointment, not a single county or state agency could or would help me get to the bottom of this mystery.

Up until now I have largely kept this report private because I wanted to give Tim Taylor, the acting Utah County Attorney, time to privately investigate without the city becoming aware of my concerns. If the city caught wind of my suspicions before the ballots in question were secured, it could tamper with them and make it impossible for him to ever uncover the truth. Unfortunately, the Utah County Attorney’s Office has shown no interest in helping the residents of Eagle Mountain at all and now the only option left to me is to let the public know of what may have happened.

In the interest of full disclosure, I endorsed and actively supported the two candidates who might have lost the primary due to election fraud. They were Robert Schermerhorn (mayoral candidate) and Nick Jessen (council candidate). The two beneficiaries of this potential fraud were the incumbents, Mayor Heather Jackson and Council Member Nathan Ochsenhirt.

While there is no indication the incumbents had anything to do with the potential fraud, at the very least the unprofessional conduct of the city recorder, who is their direct employee, calls into question their competency as political leaders in Eagle Mountain. Voters ought to take this into account when they vote in the general election on November 5th, 2013.

EMC Election Fraud Report
This is an updated version of the report I gave to county and state authorities in the hope that they would conduct a recount and investigate any irregularities.

Addendum to the EMC Election Fraud Report
This report describes my failed attempts to get an investigation and speculates on why our county and state officials have not helped us clean up corruption in Eagle Mountain. It also contains additional details on other scandals such as how developers have been able to steal millions of dollars from residents by controlling the reins of power within the city.

—–

Update: Going forward several things should happen . . .

(1)  The city recorder should not be allowed to supervise the upcoming general election on Nov. 5th.
(2)  The City Council should order that all the ballots from the primary election are immediately removed from the recorder’s safe in her office and placed in the custody of the Utah County Elections Division for safe keeping, pending future investigations.
(3)  The City Council should officially request an investigation of the primary election by an independent third-party.
(4)  All candidates should make sure they have poll watchers present to verify the integrity of the vote on Nov. 5th.

Another update: It doesn’t appear that anyone at the city, county or state levels seems to care about election fraud in Eagle Mountain.  It should be noted that public officials who would potentially benefit from election fraud are still allowed to serve as members of the canvassing board that certifies the election. It’s a stunning conflict of interest that should be illegal, but isn’t in this city.