District 53 Rep. Logan Wilde, who represents a portion of Summit County, has come under fire for a perceived conflict of interest related to a bill he’s sponsoring this legislative session.
Tony Nelson runs the Point of the Mountain Politics Facebook page and has been following Wilde’s House Bill 288, which would give local governments the ability to create protected areas around gravel pits for expanding operations as well as giving vested rights to pits that have been in the area for a long time. Nelson lives in Draper, where citizens have protested the expansion of the Geneva Rock gravel pit at the Point of the Mountain due to quality of life concerns. He’s interested in HB 288 for two reasons—its potential health impact on residents living near gravel pits and what he views as an impact on Utah citizens’ ability to self-govern.
“I think we deserve to understand who and what is behind our legislation," Nelson said. "I think it’s our right. We are the government. We need to know who’s pushing this legislation and why, and who benefits from it.”
Nelson has been running a social media campaign against the bill, and while researching Wilde, he said he came across something he perceived to be a relevant relationship that Wilde hadn’t mentioned.
“He did put down that M.R. Wilde and Sons owns 17,000 acres in Morgan County and that they use it for ranching," Nelson said. "He never disclosed that they have a lease part of their operation; he never disclosed that they had a lease with Holcim for extraction of surface materials. So, I believe, and I think anybody with any kind of common sense looking at this would think, you know, this looks like a conflict of interest.”
Wilde leases land to a mining company called Holcim Lafarge, a cement producer that can access Wilde’s property in Croydon and dump soil and rock waste on it. But Wilde says mining and gravel work are two separate operations. The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining oversees blasting, while gravel pits are regulated locally.
“So, in our statute, in our code they have the mining section, and then they have local land use, and gravel is inside of that," Wilde said. "So, they’re two different areas. This will not benefit Holcim Lafarge, in my mind. I don’t see a way that it can.”
Wilde says he’s spoken with the legislative legal team and ethics committee about Nelson’s concerns. He says legislative attorneys told him conflicts are difficult to clarify without actual cause or someone filing a complaint. When asked if he stood to gain anything from HB 288, Wilde said:
“No. No, I don’t see it benefitting me personally.”
As HB 288 makes its way through the Legislature, Nelson says Wilde should withdraw the legislation. He says Wilde is a good man who has been involved in his community in Morgan County for a long time, but Nelson thinks Wilde should go back to the drawing board with the bill.
“There’s no reason to push this through right now when there’s so much opposition to it,” Nelson said.
Under Utah’s current conflict of interest laws, legislators are required to file financial disclosure forms for income equal to or greater than $5,000 by the first day of the general session. Wilde says that the contract with Holcim is not significant enough for him to personally receive $5,000, which is why the lease was not featured on his disclosure form.
When it comes to voting on matters where legislators may have a conflict, lawmakers must declare the potential conflict before proceeding with the vote.