New details became available Thursday, with the release of an audio tape recorded by Salt Lake County Mayor, Ben McAdams (Democrat) between himself, political advisor Donald Dunn, and current lawmaker and former McAdams campaign manager, Justin Miller (Democrat – Salt Lake City).
At the core of the tape were four transactions wherein Miller allegedly wrote three checks to himself with campaign funds totaling over $10,000, and a fourth individual check for $24,000.
Campaign disclosures show that Miller received four checks from the McAdams’ campaign account between March and August ranging from roughly $1,700 to over $24,000. All four checks totaled just over $34,750.
The tape revealed that Miller admitted to McAdams and Dunn, prior to the meeting, that he had written three checks to himself that totaled just over $10,000, and that Miller wrote a $9,600 check back to the campaign in an attempt to start to balance the books.
It also revealed that a single check, written on April 29, in the amount of $24,388.45 to Miller, came as a shock to Dunn and McAdams. Miller explained that this was the original quote given to Miller for a catered event and that it was passed through Miller because the caterers were unable to run the campaign’s credit card, implying that Miller paid for the event with an alternative method out of his own pocket.
However, only one catered event was listed on McAdams’ campaign disclosure: A separate check to local catering service Le Croissant for $20,717.86 – a difference of nearly $3,700 and apparent second payment to the company – a fact pointed out by Dunn.
In the recording, Miller acknowledges the discrepancy, then pledges $10,000 in an attempt to start to rectify the situation. McAdams was quick to point out that the pledge came only after concerns were raised about the vast discrepancies in reporting totaling at minimum just over $14,000, and that he was not aware of the $24,000 released to Miller in April until after accounts were reviewed.
McAdams went on to call Miller’s actions “disappointing” and “dishonest” and demands that the campaign “be made whole.” Dunn would press the situation further by stating that “the money was paid out to you, you knew that wasn’t going to the caterer, but then another check was done to the caterer. Up until now, you never said to anybody ‘I have this money that I need to pay back.'”
After a brief silence, Miller responds that he did not, in fact, alert anyone on the campaign staff of this fact.
“Sloppiness is one thing,” Dunn would add, “stealing is another.”
Dunn went on to point out that when the campaign requested that Miller hand over financial documents to a new party, electronic files were corrupted, that the box Miller provided to the new accountant contained “only #10 envelopes” and that Miller had apparently recycled receipts related to the campaign.
McAdams called all of these events “problematic” whereas Dunn bluntly stated, “Justin, this is stealing…it’s embezzlement,” adding that he no longer trusts Miller and that he has acted “squirly” about the entire situation.
Miller called the $24,000 transaction a “mistake,” but that the other items were easily explainable.
“What is hard to believe is that ‘well, I only stole $24,000′ or “I only had $24,000 that I wasn’t going to tell you about until I was forced to tell you about it – but I can account for everything else’ – when things like this happen…they don’t just happen in a big amount like that,” said Dunn before turning his attention to West PAC, a Political Action Committee, where Miller sits as the Chief Financial Officer according to state documents.
“There are plenty of things in West PAC that I have looked at, that I have wondered ‘what is this expense? Where are these receipts?” Dunn said adding that “West PAC is a separate political entity, and we are not going through that – I don’t know if we want to go through that.”
Founded a year prior, West PAC would spend just over $3,000 on Facebook ads on behalf of the McAdams campaign between February and June. During that same time, Miller received two checks from the PAC, directly for reimbursements totaling just over $3,900. In addition, West PAC would contribute $1,000 to Miller’s run for the House of Representatives.
Miller also pointed out that a July payment from the McAdams campaign to Andrew Roberts for $12,000 was the result of an agreed upon bonus between West PAC and Roberts for meeting fundraising goals. When pressed on this fact by Dunn, Miller explained that the McAdams campaign paid Roberts because Roberts’ actions ultimately benefited the campaign. Six weeks later, West PAC would give Roberts an additional $2,115 for “political work.”
Roberts is currently the Finance Director for the Utah Democratic Party.
Dunn closed by calling Miller’s actions “incredibly stupid” and “selfish,” adding that his actions put not only himself, but also the campaign at risk. Earlier McAdams pointed out that he could have unknowingly signed off on campaign disclosures that were falsified due to Miller’s alleged actions.