Electioneering Complaint Arises in North Ogden Mayoral Race
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
North Ogden Police are investigating an official complaint involving electioneering after an endorsement video was shot inside of the North Ogden City Council chambers, which could possibly lead to criminal charges. Former North Ogden City Councilman Kent Bailey is seen standing inside the room explaining mayoral candidate Lynn Satterthwaite’s resume; he ends the video saying, “I hope you’ll join with me and elect Lynn to serve as our mayor, our next mayor.” Bailey and Satterthwaite served together on North Ogden’s Council from 2014-2016.
Questions over the video, which was shot back on Oct. 9, started when another former council member questioned the propriety of the location and content. The endorsement clip was posted to current councilman Philip Swanson’s page. This triggered Jim Urry, a former member of the City Council to write, “While I have great respect for both Lynn and Kent, I question the use of the city council chambers as a location for a campaign add.” Further on Urry writes, “If I remember correctly, a candidate is not supposed to put up campaign signs on city property. If that is correct than how can a campaign video be made on city property?”
Weber County’s election office was contacted by a private citizen who later filed the complaint via email. In it, the person asked if it was allowed to endorse from city property. Ryan Cowley, the County’s Elections Director responded to this issue saying, “A citizen brought it to our stewardship and we kicked it back to North Ogden. It’s a determination North Ogden will have to make.”
Utah campaign law under code 20A-3-501, defines “electioneering” as any spoken or printed attempt to persuade a citizen to vote for or against any candidate within 150 feet of a polling place. There is a ballot box permanently placed in the North Branch library parking lot, and as of Oct. 16, one just outside of North Ogden City Council chambers. Before running, candidates for both mayor and city council seats were told not to place any campaign signs on city-owned property, regardless of whether a ballot box was present or placed in the future. It appears this code muddies the waters on whether or not an endorsement video falls under the same purview.
Daniel Wade with Weber County’s Services and Voter Registration says this isn’t the first time questions about electioneering have popped up, “These candidates aren’t breaking the law but are pushing the boundaries.” A candidate in West Haven came under fire two months ago when she wore her own campaign shirt and took a selfie while putting her ballot in the drop box, according to Wade.
North Ogden’s complaint centers not only around the actual endorsement, but a question over who let Bailey and his videographer, Robert Bolar, inside the locked doors. “They asked if they could shoot, someone said it was fine,” claims Wade. “They (city officials) would let anyone do it. No city funds were used. No city officials were in the video or held the camera.”
“It’s being investigated so I can’t really comment on it,” said North Ogden’s City Recorder, Annette
Spendlove, when asked what she knew about the complaint. “I know State Code and everything, but I want it investigated.”
North Ogden Police have picked up the baton, taking the official complaint and statement in order to determine the proper direction. City Attorney Jon Call said an outside agency would then look into the issue, “They would look at whether an impermissible electioneering violation took place. That’s a misdemeanor.”
Cowley questions whether this is a case of electioneering since the video was shot a week before the
ballot box was placed inside the city building. “This isn’t a case of specific access to specific people.” He goes on to say, “It’s a real gray area there, are they trying to persuade people to vote a certain way?”
According to Cowley, Weber County would only investigate and prosecute the complaint if it was a
felony. North Ogden would then be charged with looking into the complaint to determine if a crime was committed. “We don’t usually investigate ourselves, unless in certain cases issued in the police
department. We’re looking to get an outside agency,” says Call.
Call didn’t want to comment when asked who specifically would be charged with electioneering if an outside agency found the complaint valid. Councilman Philip Swanson was also named in the complaint for sharing the video due to the possible campaign law violation.
Mail-in ballots started arriving Wednesday throughout Weber County ahead of the November 5.