Highlights of My Work

A Little About Me

I’ve volunteered to be shocked by a Taser, played chew toy for a police K-9 and faced my great fear of roller coasters thousands of feet in the air during a thrill ride on an aerobatic airplane — all for a news story.

Angry public officials have targeted me and tried to have me arrested. My news stories have resulted in harassment and threats against my life.

But I love my job.

My career as a journalist has taken me into various situations exposing me to different experiences and people from all walks of life. They have all given me a unique perspective and deeper understanding of the issues I write about.

I’m not afraid to take risks. And I don’t mind pushing the envelope a little further by challenging the status quo or asking the hard-hitting questions to provide my readers with the truth and an in-depth look behind the scenes.

As an award-winning investigative journalist, I have reported on breaking news, public lands, education, criminal justice, public safety, government, and politics. I’ve also always been open to having fun or doing something new that will lead to an adventure. Hang gliding and skydiving are at the top of my reporter’s bucket list.

One of my passions is reporting on rural communities. Too often their residents lack power and a voice; a perfect breeding ground for corruption. Likewise, their elected leaders and public officials are also left vulnerable to federal and state overreach as smaller cities lack money, power and political clout to demand accountability or enact change.

I’m an ardent defender of the First Amendment and believe strongly that a free press is the cornerstone of our Constitutional Republic.  My mission as a journalist is only to shine the light of truth and transparency where there is darkness. I believe in reporting the facts not pushing a specific agenda or narrative.

Highlights of My Work

SUU may have breached payout policy

A records request I made to Southern Utah University regarding an early retirement package for a former employee revealed a “confidential” contract authorizing payroll to dole out an annual payment of $60,445 — an amount that far exceeded the 20 percent allowed by law and university policy.

The request made under Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) was initially denied by the university. However, the request was later granted after I appealed the denial arguing that all payroll records, including retirement, are considered open under Utah law.

The records exposed two conflicting agreements; one signed by the Board of Trustees authorizing the standard 20 percent early retirement payout allowed by law and the other, signed only by the former university president, that provided for an extra payout of $38,877. This amount was in addition to a payment of $9,057 for medical and dental benefits.

Citizen files complaint against Iron County School District

After months of researching and inspecting numerous government records I discovered that the school district had violated the Open and Public Meetings Act by failing to publish agendas and provide minutes or recordings for several meetings while in the process of purchasing another office building for $1.6 million.

In addition, the board held closed meetings on two different occasions where they did not record their discussions surrounding property negotiations. Board members argued they had turned the recorder off to discuss personnel issues but forgot to turn it back on when the conversation switched to real estate. The recorder was turned back on however, after the board returned to an open meeting session.

The investigation found several other issues and violations that led to changes to bring the school district into compliance with the law.

Stone Castle Recycling in trouble in all three locations

Stone Castle Recycling in trouble in all three locations

At the time, Stone Castle had recently relocated its headquarters from Clearfield to Cedar City while also leasing property in Parowan. The company had been in Southern Utah for several months when various allegations began surfacing after the Parowan facility caught fire.

My investigation found numerous violations the company had been cited for by the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in all three of its locations — Parowan, Cedar City and Clearfield — that had been ignored by Stone Castle.

I also discovered that there were several issues within the local municipalities including that the company had been allowed to open its doors in Cedar City without proper licenses and adequate approvals from the DEQ. In addition, the company had received a business license for the sale of electronics not for the stockpiling of electronics outdoors. The property was not zoned for that type of business.

I also learned that the facility in Clearfield had previously caught fire. Several months after this story was written, the location in Cedar City also caught fire. However, officials were never able to determine whether there was any connection between the three facilities in Parowan, Cedar City and Clearfield.

As a result of my investigation and story, the cities and the DEQ forced the company to shut its doors until it could come into compliance with federal, state and local laws. It never reopened.

Raising the sun (photos by Asher Swan)

“Solar companies, however, still continue to build projects knowing there’s a guarantee of payment for the energy they produce
from Rocky Mountain Power. Under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, utility companies are obligated to purchase the power from solar projects for 20 years, regardless of whether it’s needed and in this case, it’s not,” Dave Ecckelsen, Rocky Mountain Power spokesman said. 

This story, written in 2015, is an in-depth look at the solar companies that were moving into Iron County at the time. It highlights the benefits of solar energy but also focuses on some of the controversial issues surrounding the solar industry. The article calls into question not only the government subsidies that were given to these companies at the time but also the government-mandated obligations that were pushed on the power companies to accept the solar power coming from these facilities even if it wasn’t needed.

On the ground with Zinke: Grand Staircase trip brings ‘optimism’

When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke came to Garfield County to meet with local and state officials and tour the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument we were invited to go with him. We first met with Zinke that morning for a one-on-one interview at the Kane County Water Conservancy District where officials had invited us to come before they met with other members of the press. Following that meeting we traveled with Zinke’s entourage through the monument. The drive gave us an intimate look into the behind-the-scenes emotions and issues that many local and state leaders held about the creation of the monument and the ongoing problems they believe came from its designation.

What’s in a job: Cornfields, murder and big business define 1 deputy’s patrol

This story is a look into the job of a sheriff’s deputy who works in the most rural area of the county. But among the cornfields he patrols is a dark history that officials say have experienced some of the most dangerous and violent crimes in Iron County.

From east to west, Iron County Sheriff Deputy Jobe Peterson’s patrol area starts around 30 miles west of Cedar City at milepost 33 extending to the Nevada state line via state Route 56, a stretch that takes two hours to drive in its entirety.

From the south, the deputy is responsible for everything as far north as the Beaver County line. Many of the roads in Iron County are dirt roads and depending on which one you take, the drive time is a minimum of two hours.

Peterson also patrols the towns and unincorporated areas of Beryl, Lund, Modena, Hamblin Valley and Newcastle with the closest police backup often more than an hour away.

“I”m on my own out here,” Peterson said of the remote areas of his patrol. “If I call for backup either: a) They may not ever hear me; and b) By the time they get here it’s a two-hour drive from Cedar. So if I get myself in a situation, I either have to talk real sweet or get things done real quick on my own because backup ain’t gonna be here for awhile.”

Commissioners issue ultimatum 

In the midst of the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada, there was another war in the West brewing just 85 miles away at the same time. This one, in Iron County and was about the wild horses that ranchers argued were destroying the range.

In a notice directed to the Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Neil Kornze and the Nevada BLM State Director Amy Lueders, the Iron County Commissioners and Sheriff Mark Gower warned that any action taken by the BLM to gather and confiscate Bundy’s cattle grazing on Clark County public lands would warrant Iron County to begin immediately taking steps to cut the number of feral horses in Southern Utah.

This story sparked debate throughout the country followed with a series of stories that drew national attention to the issues surrounding ranchers, wild horses and the war of the West.

Authorities continue search for shooting suspect

This article, involving a murder in Cedar City, is one of many that I was responsible for breaking on this incident.

The day started at 7 a.m. with news coming across the scanner that there had been a murder. I chased the story from Cedar City to Panguitch — always one step ahead of the competition. At one point, law enforcement officials were questioning how we were getting the information faster than they could put it out. In fact, several news outlets just began to link to our site that day rather than trying to run down the information themselves.

Retired police officer speaks out on his own criminal charges

This article spotlights a retired police officer who suffered for years with PTSD and his own fight to prove his innocence for a crime he didn’t commit.

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