SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives was investigating Thursday whether a lawmaker who abruptly resigned used a state-issued cellphone and hotel room paid for with taxpayer money to arrange trysts with a prostitute.
House Speaker Greg Hughes declined to comment on a report in British newspaper the Daily Mail that alleged former Republican Rep. Jon Stanard twice hired a prostitute in 2017.
But House Chief of Staff Greg Hartley said he was checking legislative records to see if the chamber paid for hotel stays and the cellphone that the report alleges Stanard used. Elections officials also said they were reviewing his campaign finance reports to see if campaign cash may have been used.
Phone and text messages left with Stanard’s cellphone were not returned, but it indicated he read the texts seeking comment. His lawyer, Wally Bugden, declined to comment and did not respond to a follow-up email asking if he was denying the allegations.
Stanard, a married Republican from the southern Utah resort community of St. George, resigned Tuesday night after serving five years in the House. He voted last year in favor of a law that made state prostitution laws stricter, including raising the penalty for people who are convicted twice of solicitation.
The House announced his resignation Wednesday for “personal and family concerns” but did not offer details. That day, Stanard told The Associated Press in a text message: “My father has terminal cancer and I am going to spend a few weeks with him out of state while I still can.”
He did not offer additional information.
The Daily Mail reported that a prostitute, Brie Taylor, said Stanard twice paid her for sex last year during business trips to Salt Lake City and that he arranged the meetings with a phone number listed on his legislative profile.
The newspaper posted screenshots of messages that Taylor said came from Stanard, but the phone number was blurred out.
Taylor did not respond to a text message asking her to confirm the phone number and declined to speak with the AP.
The date and time of the messages indicate Stanard would have been texting her to arrange meetings on days the Legislature was in session in March and when lawmakers are in meetings at the Capitol in summer and fall.
Stanard’s 2017 campaign finance report shows he submitted an expense on March 10 for $1,510 for “extra hotel expense session lodging” at the “Marriott Residence.”
Text messages in the Daily Mail story indicate Stanard was arranging for a visit with Taylor at the Marriott Residence Inn on March 8.
Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee said state law bars any personal use of campaign funds and paying for a prostitute “would obviously fall outside of appropriate use of campaign funds.”
Elections officials were looking over Stanard’s reports “to see if there’s anything that jumps out to us,” Lee said, but declined to say if they have found anything or how far back they were looking.
Utah’s Republican House speaker would not comment on whether Stanard informed him about the allegations before resigning. When asked if it was Stanard’s choice to quit, Hughes said, “Yeah, he wrote the letter.”
Republican Rep. Mike McKell said Stanard gave lawmakers no explanation about why he resigned and that House leaders have not shared information.
“I was absolutely shocked. I had never heard anything, there was nothing in my interaction — I sit next to him on the House floor — nothing in my interaction that’s ever suggesting anything even remotely close to what we’re seeing today,” McKell said.
Salt Lake City police declined to say whether they were involved, and the Unified Police Department of Salt Lake County said it had no record of contact with Stanard.
On a campaign website that has now been taken down, he wrote that his wife and three children are the “most important thing” in his life and that he enjoys being able to spend time with them “every chance he can get.”
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.