Publicly, two of Utah's top officials say nothing's wrong. They're getting along fine - and it doesn't matter who gets credit for taking the biggest steps toward correcting domestic-violence problems in Utah.

But privately, Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt and Utah Attorney General Jan Graham, a Democrat, seem to be in a major tiff, and social-service experts who deal with domestic violence every day say they wish the two would get over it.At the core of the dispute is a study recently completed on domestic violence in Utah.

"The focus of public attention seems to be particularly on the partisan conflict," said Bob Terragno, director of the Community Counseling Center. "My only concern with that fact is that it may draw attention away from the real substance of the study."

For example, he said, the results of the study show domestic violence is indeed a serious problem in the State of Utah. Seven percent of women report their children witnessed actual physical abuse, and 21 percent report their children witnessed verbal/emotional abuse. Tension between Leavitt and Graham bubbled again this week as the governor justified his absence at a recent press conference where Graham announced "statewide action" concerning family violence and abuse in Utah.

This, on top of a very public tussle between the two about release of the domestic-abuse study a month ago, has made interaction between the two resemble a " `he said,' `she said,' `I did not,' `oh, yes you did' " scenario.

Leavitt and his staff were conspicuously absent from the announcement event, attended by a number of advocates for victims of domestic violence, school officials, social-service representatives and lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum.

"Look, there's a big temptation on everyone's part to be talking about who's doing what or who puts themselves in front of this issue," Leavitt told reporters at his monthly televised press conference. "That's not my interest. My interest is in making certain we're doing all we can do to solve it."

The governor is making his own progress, he said, and supporting Graham, too, he told reporters.

His budget for 1999 includes $200,000 to counsel abused children. It also includes up to $4.2 million dedicated to support domestic violence-related programs.

"(The issue shouldn't be) who's doing what and who's putting himself in front of this issue," Leavitt said. "We all ought to be working together."

But that didn't seem to be the case as Leavitt, Walker and the governor's top staffers did not attend Wednesday's announcement.

First Vicki Varela, Leavitt's deputy chief of staff, said the governor hadn't been invited. He actually had been invited, she said later, but no one was going to be allowed to speak to the group.

The attorney general's office did send out an invitation memo to Leavitt, Lt. Governor Olene Walker, members of various domestic-abuse councils and members of the Utah State Legislature.

Walker was going to attend, but didn't. Varela told Palmer DePaulis, Graham's chief of staff, that Walker wouldn't attend unless she could make a presentation.

"We negotiated over several days and it became clear that Jan wasn't going to let Olene talk" at the Wednesday announcement, said Varela. Walker headed the multi-department task force looking into domestic violence that commissioned the controversial poll.

But the attorney general's office already had chosen speakers and wanted speeches to come from people who work on the front lines to correct behavior that contributes to domestic violence. The presentation included a videotaped segment and recorded calls to 911 dispatchers.

"The focus was not on elected officials, except for Jan, who was kicking this whole thing off," DePaulis said.

"Our effort was to galvanize the community . . .," DePaulis said. "The emphasis was rally on the future."

Besides Graham, speakers included: Diane Stuart, state coordinator for domestic violence; Terragno; Salt Lake City Police Chief Ruben Ortega and 3rd District Court Judge Sheila McCleve, who started Utah's first domestic violence court. The dispute between Graham and Leavitt started a month ago, when Graham sent Leavitt a memo accusing him of dragging his feet on release of the domestic-violence study. She asked him to release the study immediately and said she would make it public herself if he did not.

The governor stymied release of the study because of his perception it could have negative connotations for Utah's pro-family image, she said.

A few days later, Leavitt called Graham's comments "ridiculous," and said the attorney general needed to focus on the problem, not the controversy.

DePaulis said Friday that the attorney general's office was following the governor's advice - taking action, making a plan - when it developed the initiatives announced Wednesday.

Advocates for victims and children involved in domestic violence said Friday this is the right approach.

"Let's focus our dialogue not on what could be termed the `political situation,' but on what can be done," said Susan Sheehan, director of the YWCA's battered women's shelter.

"Let's focus on what's in the governor's budget and what needs to happen to salvage the futures of these children who witness domestic violence."

The political back-and-forth doesn't affect his office too much, said Sgt. Dana Orgill, head of the domestic-violence squad for the Salt Lake Police Department.

His officers are busy dealing with the 4,089 domestic-abuse cases filed in 1996. The tally of 1997 cases is expected to exceed the 1996 number by several hundred, he said.

"I'm not in a position to take sides, but certainly if you had everybody in state government, county government and city government on the same page when it comes to domestic violence, it would probably work better," he said.

Graham and her office have been at the forefront of this issue, Orgill said, noting that he speaks for himself and not the department. "And although the governor hasn't come right out and made a strong statement, he probably supports it too."