A professional lobbyist will join the fight to save Hill Air Force Base in the next two weeks. But one of the top applicants for the position may have a conflict of interest.
The Deseret News has learned that Hill/DDO '95 solicited several proposals this month from companies who would represent base interests in 1995 closure hearings, including one from lobbyist Tim Rupli of R. Duffy Wall and Associates Inc.Rupli, however, has been hired to protect the Defense Languages Institute - the military's language school in Monterrey, Calif. - a jewel Utah officials want.
Gov. Mike Leavitt pitched a plan to national leaders in June that would move 1,200 jobs from the language institute, if it closes, to either Camp Williams or Hill Air Force Base.
Rupli is paid by DLI supporters to prevent that.
So, can he serve two masters?
"We want to make sure he could work for us completely without bias or we won't hire him," said Rick Mayfield, director of the state Division of Business and Economic Development.
The division is charged with monitoring how the state's donation to Hill/DDO (about $145,000 so far) is spent.
"We don't see a conflict right now, but we're asking some questions," he said.
Rupli was on business in Michigan and did not return phone messages Thursday or Friday morning.
He and his firm have an impressive track record - the reason officials are still considering him, Mayfield said.
Of the six military bases that were scheduled for closure in 1993 hearings, Rupli's company represented four that were taken off the closure lists.
Hill/DDO '95 has received $212,000 from the state and local governments in Davis, Salt Lake and Weber counties.
It planned to help shape national debate on military depot workloads, specifically regarding how the work should be split and which depots would be the best value for taxpayers.
But group members changed their focus after returning from a June visit in Washington, D.C.
Now, they want to hire a lobbyist with inside connections that would represent Hill only.
"We need someone who understands the base closure process and has had experience working with the staff involved," said Mike Pavich, Hill/DDO president.
He and members of Hill/DDO are considering at least three other applicants, he said.