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For week ended March 05, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 03Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Former LDS Stake President and Utah House Speaker In Trouble
Salt Lake Tribune 28Feb00 D2
By John Heilprin: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Utah legislator and former speaker of the State House of Representatives Mel Brown has fallen a long way from his glory days, and now the legislator is simply trying to get back to stability. Just three years ago Brown had a 42-year-old marriage and respect both as a state legislator and former LDS stake president. Now he is leaving his political career this fall, has been excommunicated from the LDS Church, and is facing a bitter divorce which may cost him a farm that has been in his family for four generations.

In addition, Brown has gotten into hot political water over accepting a $230 personal check from a U.S. West lobbyist. While both Brown, and the lobbyist, Dave Watson, call the transaction a harmless way to help Brown get a cell phone, neither of them disclosed the transaction in public disclosure forms, possibly in violation of the law. Evidence from his divorce proceedings also indicates that he may have been offered a lobbying job.

Brown's political troubles started first, just before he won re-election in November 1998. The Salt Lake Tribune had reported on the cell phone transaction, and Brown was investigated and exonerated by the House,but he also abandoned his bid for a third term as speaker. Then in December 1998 he separated from his wife. She filed for divorce alleging adultery because of Brown's relationship with a former legislative aide, Jill Kitchen. The relationship also led to his excommunication.

Because the Brown's disagree over alimony, their divorce came to trial. Jolene Brown, his ex-wife, is seeking higher alimony, which would force him to sell the 285-acre farm that has been in his family for four generations. Brown has a very strong attachment to the farm, says Dairy farmer and House Majority Whip David Ure, "He truly loves agriculture, he loves his animals and he loves the land," Brown offered his ex-wife their Midvale home, half his retirement pension and $300 a month in alimony. But Jolene Brown says that Brown gets $17,000 a year in perks not reflected on wage statements, mostly from the farm's relationship to a dairy owned by his brother.


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