Friday, January 15, 2010

Lohra Miller Strikes Again: The Grand Dame Of Salt Lake Justice Stirs Up A Couple Of More Hornet's Nests

It seems like not a week goes by before Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller makes the news once again. Unfortunately, it's drama once again instead of production.

KSL Channel 5 reports that on October 21st, 2009, a member of Lohra Miller's staff, identified as Stu Smith, sent an identical e-mail to five Salt Lake-area police chiefs soliciting their support in Miller's "food fight" against prosecutor Kent Morgan, who she originally fired in March 2008 after she accused him of leaking proprietary case information to Doll House character Steve Maese. Morgan appealed, and in April 2009, the Salt Lake County Career Services Council ordered him reinstated, although they did demote him to the position of line prosecutor. Subsequently in September 2009, the Council completely exonerated Morgan and ordered him reinstated as a full-blown felony prosecutor.

The recipients of the e-mails were West Jordan Chief Kent McGuire, Sandy Chief Steve Chapman, Salt Lake City Chief Chris Burbank, West Valley City Chief Buzz Neilsen, and Cottonwood Heights Chief Robby Russo. The e-mails can be viewed HERE. They all start out by briefly summarizing the dispute between Miller and Morgan, then go on to say Ms. Miller "is on the record as saying she has lost confidence in him and his ability to represent the DA's office ... Lohra would like to represent to the public that it is not only her that has lost faith and confidence in Mr. Morgan, but it is also law enforcement and law enforcement leadership." KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



Lohra Miller says that while she says she was not aware of the e-mails until a few weeks ago, she did ask a staff member to see if any law enforcement officers were willing to go on the record with concerns about Morgan. She says that was prompted by a number of off-the-record comments. To this day, no one has come forward.

This story broke almost simultaneously with another account of Lohra Miller drama in the Salt Lake Tribune. Recently, Salt Lake County received a $745,000 Federal stimulus grant designed to shorten the amount of time it takes to bring a typical wrongdoer to justice. The two-year effort aims to resolve up to a third of all criminal cases within 30 days, in contrast to the average of 160 days now. So what did Lohra Miller do with part of the money? She used it to hire three former employees of her husband's law firm who were laid off. Because the jobs connected with the grant are temporary (two years), Miller was not required to go through the county's competitive-hiring process. The employees are Holly Petrik, brought aboard as a prosecutor, and Chenille Hutto and Melinda Losee, hired as caseworkers.

Miller defended her actions. "They are incredibly qualified...This was a circumstance that we don't get very often in government -- that is, to know somebody, to know how hard they work and to know what their job skills are before hiring them. That is a great opportunity", she said. But what she doesn't realize is that she has squandered so much political capital over the past four years by her theatrics and dramatics that she hasn't the wiggle room to effectively defend her actions anymore.

And her Democratic opponent, Greg Skordas, wasted little time in critiquing her. "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should," said Skordas, who announced plans last week to run against Miller this year for district attorney. "These candidates may be the greatest, but we will never know because no one was able to fairly compete for the positions."

Based on public reaction posted to KSL and the Tribune, Lohra Miller is likely to get mauled in the November election. Even conservative Republicans are disavowing her. Perhaps the smartest thing for her to do is to set her ego aside for the public good, piss on the fire, call in the dogs, and abandon any plans to run for re-election. She's just too polarizing a figure.

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