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Provo officials mum on `pending’ probe of political group

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Nobody's saying much about what Mayor Lewis Billings describes as a "pending" investigation into a councilwoman's connection to an anonymous group that campaigned against him during the last election.

Billings' attorney, Richard Hill, talked to the Utah County Attorney's Office before Leon "Leo" Lines Jr., a Republican state Senate candidate, made public last week his affidavit implicating Councilwoman Shari Holweg as one of the people behind Ethics 4 Provo. The group ran a series of newspaper ads aimed at discrediting Billings and Councilman Greg Hudnall. Hol-weg called Lines' affidavit "fiction."Neither Billings nor Hill would say exactly what they want County Attorney Kay Bryson to look into.

"I don't think it's appropriate to comment, so I won't," said Hill, whom Billings charged with pursuing leads regarding the identities of Ethics 4 Provo. Billings said the same thing. Bryson, too, declined to discuss any investigation that might be going on.

There appears to be few, if any, crimes to which Hill or Billings could link Holweg's recently alleged actions.

An obscure state law makes it a class B misdemeanor to knowingly make or publish false statements about a candidate or issue is one possibility. Billings has said the ads were fraught with falsehoods and inaccuracies.

Another possibility would be a removal-from-office petition for some sort of malfeasance or conflict of interest.

Though Billings won't talk about the investigation, he did say he isn't pushing for a criminal probe.

An investigation, however, could lead to Holweg or other suspected Ethics 4 Provo participants being summoned to give depositions. That would allow Hill and Billings to see whether Holweg's statements under oath differ from those made to the press.

Billings directly asked Holweg in a February City Council meeting about her involvement with Ethics 4 Provo, presumably to get her on the public record. Holweg said she wasn't involved in preparing or paying for the ads and didn't know who was.

Former Mayor George Stewart, who says the newspaper ads also maligned him, contemplated filing a lawsuit against Ethics 4 Provo. The main purpose was to find out who belongs to the group through the discovery process attorneys use when preparing a case. Billings at that time also thought about filing suit.

Holweg said no one from the county attorney's office has contacted her. "All I know is what I've seen in the papers," she said.

The controversial councilwoman said she believes she's the target of a "concerted effort on the part of some Republicans and people in power here in Provo" to remove her from office. Holweg hasn't seen eye-to-eye with several elected officials, most of whom are GOP members, during her two terms in office.

Billings, a former Utah County Republican Party chairman, said if there is a conspiracy against Holweg, he's not part of it. "I'm not trying to bring anyone down," he said.