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Consultants give up state contracts

Questions were raised about work for Envirocare

A local consulting group paid $16,000 a month by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. gave up the contracts after questions were raised about lobbying done for Envirocare.

Farbman Hopkins & Associates had been handling the governor's fund-raising efforts as well as running the privately financed Utah Policy Partnership, an informal advisory organization that serves as Huntsman's "kitchen cabinet."

That ended the same day criticism surfaced about the nuclear waste disposal facility in Tooele County hiring the firm to lobby because of its close ties to the governor. Huntsman responded by saying he would not approve an expansion sought by Envirocare.

On Nov. 9, Max Farbman and Greg Hopkins of the consulting group told the governor's general counsel, Mike Lee, by telephone that they were willing to step down. "They offered their resignation and we accepted," the governor's deputy chief of staff, Mike Mower, said.

"They though it was the right thing to do. They didn't want to create any kind of problem for the governor," said John Becker, a public relations consultant hired to speak on behalf of Farbman and Hopkins.

Becker said the pair were out of town when what he called "some kind of a flap" erupted over their contract to represent Envirocare in Washington, D.C. They did not have a contract to lobby in Utah on behalf of the waste facility.

"They never lobbied the governor's office on behalf of any client," Mower said. He said Huntsman appreciated the work they had done for him, "and considers them both great friends."

Becker, too, said there weren't "any hard feelings at all" between Farbman and Hopkins and the governor. "They will continue to be supporters of the governor and do anything he wants them to do," Becker said.

The Utah Policy Partnership, made up of business and community leaders from Huntsman's transition team including Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller, will continue to be run by Steve Starks.

Starks had been a member of the consulting group, but quit the same day Farbman and Hopkins gave up their $6,000-a-month contract to manage the policy partnership, Becker said.

Farbman and Hopkins also let go the $10,000 a month they were earning to manage Huntsman's fund-raising efforts, done through the governor's Special Initiatives Office, his political action committee.

Mower said the governor "will consider other options in the next few weeks" for running both entities.