January 22, 2018

Bennion faces a conflict of interest in his advocacy for the FOP

Salt Lake City - Rep. Chad Bennion speaks to a television crew about HCR003 - Resolution Urging Protection of United States from Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Salt Lake City – Chad Bennion

The  leader of the Salt Lake County Republican Party has made a grave mistake in calling a rally to protest findings that  two West Valley police officers used deadly force without justification. Further, because SLCo Party Chair Chad Bennion is employed by the Fraternal Order of Police, he faces a conflict of interest which prevents him from commenting on the issue in his position as party chair without risk of violating his duty to the Republican Party. In order to avoid a conflict of interest and to satisfy his dual duties to the Republican Party and his employer, the Fraternal Order of Police, Bennion should consider stepping down as Chair of the SLCo Republican Party.

It’s one thing to oppose a position, or report, or policy. It’s another thing altogether to deride the person conveying that position with an ad hominem attack on that person’s ethnicity and upbringing.

And it’s another thing altogether when the person doing the critiquing has a vested interest in the outcome.

But that’s exactly what Chad Bennion, chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, is doing. As an administrative representative (not a lawyer) of a law firm employed by the Fraternal Order of Police (and listing Bennion on the Fraternal Order Executive Board page), Bennion has a vested interest in that which the Fraternal Order has a vested interest. With two members of the Fraternal Order under heat for the shooting death of a woman and their account of the shooting at odds with forensic evidence (not to mention the mishandling of evidence and possibly missing drugs and money from the two officers’ time on the now defunct West Valley Police narcotics unit), Bennion has used harsh and inappropriate language to attack Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, including blaming Gill’s upbringing in India and calling the DA a “cop hater.”

Ouch. So much for avoiding ad hominem attacks or making the GOP more inclusive of other cultures. I guess we can all dismiss Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, because, you know, they’ve got Indian upbringing, as well.

To make it worse, Bennion has decided to make all of his comments not as an employee of the Fraternal Order, but as  leader of the Salt Lake County GOP. It’s one thing represent his employer, but it’s another thing altogether to decide to use his political position to go to bat for his employer.

Last night Bennion sent out an email (see below) to the County Party’s list calling for an “Officer Support Rally” this afternoon at a time calculated to hit while Salt Lake County employees are leaving work.  If I was a member of the Salt Lake County GOP (oh, wait! I am!), I would be more than a little disappointed that the person most responsible for leading out in helping Republicans win elections next year is wasting limited party capital, to say nothing of resources and time, to push a personal agenda espoused by his employer. There are many ways to get the GOP’s name out there, but this is a method that will only hurt the Republican brand.

If the officers are innocent of the charges against them, they have due process to appeal to. However, politicization of that process not only hinders a fair result and criticizes the results of the rule of law, but turns the public against all the good that the Republican Party does, inaccurately leading the public to believe that Bennion is supported in his quixotic quest for his employer.

By calling for this rally, Bennion is violating his duty to the Republican Party, and perhaps ought to give serious thought to stepping down so that he can pursue the interests of his employer without a conflict of interest that will weaken the Salt Lake County Republican Party.

Rally to Support Law Enforcement

About Daniel Burton

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. You can follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas. He is active on social media, Republican politics, and has been named to PoliticIt’s list of the “Top-50 Utah Political Opinion Leaders” on Twitter. You can reach him directly at dan.burton@gmail.com

  • Ryan Jenkins

    Dan, You are so dead on, on this topic! Very well articulated. I was shocked at the email. I have never seen the party used in this way. He is going to look the fool when few people show up. The party struggles to motivate people to come to meetings…How could he possibly think anyone is going to show up other than to see a spectacle?

    • Ryan, it does seem to be an inappropriate and unprecedented use of county party resources, and I can only hope that few people show up to convey the message to him. We’ll see, right?

  • Ryan Jenkins

    I’m sorry I am so full of compliments for you today Dan, but I just reread your two articles on this topic and frankly they are VERY well written. I have been a fool for not subscribing to you yet. I am repenting right now and subscribing. I can’t wait to read your thoughts and opinions.

    • Well, that’s nice of you to say, Ryan. I always appreciate kinds words.

  • Sam

    I fully agree with this commentary. Thorough and insightful. This should have been the Des’ or Trib’s Op-Ed.

  • Sam

    One more thing,
    1. Notorious Trooper Steed just lost her job for cheating on DUIs.
    2. SLCPD’s vice squad was disbanded last year after an investigation into a shooting death was ruled unjustified and other 4th Amendment violations were uncovered.
    3. Ogden narcotics are spotlighted for gangbusting into a vet’s home for four pot plants ends in death.
    4. WVPD narcs just got disbanded because none of them would be credible to testify in over 100 cases. Oh, and a couple of them may have kept their own private stashes of cash and drugs taken from evidence.
    5. Yesterday a Box Elder patrolman pleaded guilty to coercing young women to strip during stops.
    6. Finally, the state’s former republican Top Cop, Shurtleff, and current Top Cop, Swallow, are being investigated by every non-conflicted agency with jurisdiction for campaign finance violations, and criminal conduct.

    Wouldn’t it be prudent that Utah Republican establishment at least appear to applaud transparency in law enforcement? To laud efforts by police agencies which have helped uncover potential problems within themselves?

    The party missed an opportunity to appear even keeled and steady. Instead they let this rookie paint them all with a radical insensitive brush. Pat Bagley’s cartoon, for once, is right on.

    Gill probably is a cop hater. It appears he hates dirty cops.

    • It is a troubling litany, Sam. I am hopeful that these are more the result of isolated incidents and individuals than a pattern. I’d like to believe, or at least hope, that most police officers are more restrained and careful in the application of deadly force at their disposal.

      • Sam

        As a former criminal defense attorney, I am confident most cops have the best intentions and know they are well trained. But, like Mr Bennion, a few are subject to peer pressure and struggle to admit mistakes. (I’m confident this is what happened to trooper Gardner last week when he was caught giving false testimony).

        As an Ironic aside, the prosecutor who convicted Bennion’s wife, the whom he screamed at, is married to a cop; and named her first two children after guns.

        • Actually, that is pretty ironic. But let’s not allow facts to get in the way, right? 😉

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