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Utah County attorney may face state probe

Kay Bryson
Kay Bryson

PROVO — The chairman of the Utah County Commission asked Utah's attorney general in a letter to investigate whether Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson abused the privilege of his office by using county-owned police surveillance equipment in a personal matter.

"The press revelations of the possible violation of Utah County personnel policy guidelines regarding the use of county employees and equipment for personal gain and outside of the scope of law enforcement are our primary concern," says the letter from Commissioner Steve White, obtained by the Deseret Morning News.

"There have been recent revelations other than what has been published in the newspapers, which have caused me, as chairman, to make this request," says the letter. "Integrity in public service is always of utmost concern, and the restoration of the Utah County Attorney's Office's reputation is my first and foremost priority."

The issue: Kay Bryson, who is embroiled in a very public spat with his estranged wife, Utah Rep. Katherine Bryson, R-Orem, enlisted the help of a Utah County deputy sheriff to put a security camera in a Salt Lake condominium last October.

The condo is owned by Katherine Bryson but is rented by the couple's son, Scott.

Kay Bryson reportedly told the deputy he was worried about burglaries in the condominium. Instead of recording the suspected illegal activities, tapes revealed a meeting between Katherine Bryson and a male friend.

The Brysons, who have been married for 35 years and have six grown children, are in the final stages of a bitter divorce.

Both parties have publicly accused the other of misconduct.

Public fights in connection with the divorce pushed Katherine Bryson to withdraw a bid for re-election just days after filing papers with the county clerk's office.

Utah County Sheriff James Tracy says the deputy performed the work for Kay Bryson on his own time. He also says the surveillance equipment is available to any Utah County resident worried about a criminal activity on his property.

Tracy said Katherine Bryson was furious when she found the camera. The lawmaker returned the surveillance equipment to the sheriff's office by dumping it on the desk of detective Dennis Harris, the officer who installed it in the condo.

Katherine Bryson then filed an invasion-of-privacy complaint Sept. 1 with the Salt Lake City Police Department. She has also asked the attorney general to investigate, said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Murphy said the letter from White was received last week and he was told the same thing Katherine Bryson was told when she requested an investigation — Salt Lake police officers and the Utah Department of Public Safety have jurisdiction.

"They'll be handling this," Murphy said.

Murphy said Utah County officials could elect to conduct an internal investigation — but usually outside entities handle such matters to avoid conflict of interest questions. Murphy said the findings of the police probe could be sent to to the Salt Lake County attorney or to the state attorney general to be screened.

Salt Lake police detective Dwayne Baird, spokesman for the department, said officers have not finished a preliminary investigation. "If this proves to be a civil and not a criminal issue, we won't get involved," he said.

White said he isn't trying to sidestep Commissioner Jerry Grover's earlier declaration that issues surrounding Bryson's use of the camera equipment would be handled as a personnel matter.

"I can't direct the investigation, so I'm going to do my duty as a commissioner and ask for an outside investigation," White said Monday. "We can't investigate another elected official within our own office."