A Utah lawmaker resigned Friday after it became public that he had been arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover police officer posing as a male prostitute.
Rep. Brent Parker, R-Wellsville, 57, was arrested Wednesday night in Salt Lake City for investigation of sex solicitation, a class B misdemeanor. He was issued a citation and released at the scene.
After obtaining the police report, the Deseret News contacted Parker on the House floor Friday afternoon for his reaction to the charge. "It's not what it appears," he said.
Parker then asked if the Deseret News would hold the story until after the session ended Wednesday. When told the paper would run the story today, he was asked if he had any further comment. "I can't at this time. . . . I can't," he said, after a long pause.
Shortly thereafter, Parker gave House Speaker Marty Stephens a handwritten letter of resignation and left the building. The letter thanked Stephens for his leadership and said his resignation was effective immediately but did not give a reason.
At a news conference following caucus meetings where lawmakers were told of Parker's resignation, Stephens announced the development.
"As with any person accused of a crime, there is a presumption of innocence. I fully expect that Representative Parker will be given an opportunity to defend himself through the appropriate process as he sees fit," Stephens said. "My heart goes out to Representative Parker and his family during this difficult time. I wish him well as he works through this period of personal adversity."
Parker recently was elected to a second term in the House, which he initially won in 2000 by defeating longtime GOP legislator Evan Olsen.
The incident happened Wednesday shortly before midnight. Salt Lake City police officer Thomas Flores was working undercover near Cactus Street (41 East) and Exchange Place (355 South), an area known for male prostitution, according to a police report.
A man "motioned towards me to come to his vehicle," Flores said in his report.
When Flores approached the car, the man asked the undercover officer if he "wanted to get together with him," the report states.
Flores told him he was working as a male prostitute and would perform sex acts for $15 to $20. The man then asked Flores if he was a police officer and he replied "no," according to the report.
The man offered the officer $20 to perform a sex act and then attempted to fondle the officer, according to the report.
The man asked for the undercover officer's number so he could call him "every time he came into town," according to the report.
Flores then went to his own vehicle and called for backup. Two more police officers drove into the parking lot with their lights flashing.
Parker was arrested, and officers asked for identification, according to the report. Parker gave the officers his driver's license and his House of Representatives card. He was ticketed and released without incident.
If convicted, a class B misdemeanor carries a penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Parker is married with six children and six grandchildren. He is serving his second consecutive term representing District 5, which includes Hyrum, Wellsville, part of Logan, Paradise and the greater part of Cache County.
Parker was seen as a moderate in the House, not a member of the conservative wing of the House GOP caucus, and often spoke in favor of public education issues.
He was on the Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee and House Business and Labor Committee, where he was vice chairman.
A lifelong farmer, Parker is a principal in Parker Real Estate Services and produces field crops on 1,800 acres in and around Cache County. He has a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Utah State University.
Before his election to the House in 2000, he served as president of the Cache County Board of Education and the Utah School Boards Association, was director of the Utah Dairy Commission, the Cache County Farm Bureau, the Western General Dairies and has served on the board of directors of the South Cache Water Users Association. Parker also serves on the Utah State Realtors Association Standards and Ethics Committee.
In 1973 Parker was named "Outstanding Young Farmer in the Nation" by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The Cache County Republican party was planning an emergency session today where members were expected to submit three names for possible replacements, said Cache County Republican Party Chairman Clair Ellis. Those names will then be sent to Gov. Mike Leavitt, who will choose Parker's replacement.
"Our legislators have assured me that the governor would move on it over the weekend and there would be a new replacement sworn in Monday morning," Ellis said. The Legislature adjourns Wednesday.
Possible nominees include Providence Republican Curt Webb, who lost to Parker in last June's primary, Clair said.
In any case, Republicans hold a 56-19 majority in the House and so the loss of one GOP vote the final three days of the session likely won't be critical to the majority party adopting a budget or passing legislation that most of its members desire.
Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr., Derek Jensen