SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Utah lawmaker purchased at least two hotel rooms with taxpayer money that he is accused of using to meet up with a prostitute, according to copies of his receipts provided to The Associated Press.
The DailyMail.com reported allegations Thursday that former Republican Rep. Jon Stanard twice hired a prostitute last year, leading House and state elections officials to review whether public funds or campaign money were used for hotel stays that the report alleges Stanard used for the trysts.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser warned lawmakers Friday to be on alert, citing a state senator who told reporters that an unidentified woman came to his hotel room Thursday night and insisted she was his "date."
Niederhauser said police would investigate and told lawmakers to avoid traveling alone because someone may try to embarrass or "entrap" them to extort them or sell their story.
He didn't provide evidence beyond the story from Republican state Sen. Evan Vickers, who told reporters that the woman left by the time he called another lawmaker to his room.
In Stanard's case, receipts provided by the Utah House show he was reimbursed about $225 for hotel rooms in Salt Lake City in June and August 2017 when he was attending legislative meetings at the state Capitol. He lives four hours away in the resort town of St. George.
The dates, hotel names and a room number correspond with text messages reported by the DailyMail.com.
Stanard, who abruptly resigned Tuesday night, has not returned phone and text messages seeking comment, and his lawyer, Walter Bugden, has declined to comment.
Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes said he didn't yet know if the House would ask Stanard to return the money or what the next steps would be to determine if the report was correct.
Even if the allegations are true, "our hotel policy doesn't dictate what a person is allowed to do in the hotel and he was here and in attendance for all legislative business," House Chief of Staff Greg Hartley said Friday.
He said he believes lawmakers will likely ask for a refund to avoid even the appearance of paying for a questionable hotel stay.
The DailyMail.com reported Thursday that a prostitute, Brie Taylor, said Stanard twice paid her for sex last year during business trips to Salt Lake City and that he arranged the meetings with a number for a state-issued phone listed on his legislative profile.
The news site posted screenshots of messages that Taylor said came from Stanard, but the phone number was blurred out. Taylor did not respond to a text message asking her to confirm the phone number and declined to speak with the AP.
It was unclear if legislative leaders would be able to check whether Stanard used a state-issued cellphone to arrange encounters with Taylor because it had been erased and no longer contained his text messages.
Hughes said he assumed Stanard erased his phone, not staffers, and he didn't know if there was a way to recover the texts.
House officials said they can't launch an ethics investigation because Stanard is no longer a lawmaker.
Stanard, who is married, had served five years in the House. He voted last year for stricter state prostitution laws, including raising the penalty for people who are convicted twice of solicitation.
His 2017 campaign finance report shows he submitted an expense on March 10 for $1,510 for "extra hotel expense session lodging" at the "Marriott Residence."
Text messages in the DailyMail.com story allege that Stanard was arranging for a visit with Taylor at the Marriott Residence Inn on March 8.
Utah Elections Director Justin Lee said state law bars personal use of campaign funds and that election officials were looking over Stanard's reports.
Salt Lake City police say they have no record related to solicitation allegations against Stanard. Unified Police Department of Salt Lake County said it had no record of contact with him.
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.