Head of Utah National Guard, on paid leave, denies having improper relationship
Aug 18, 2023, 7:59 PM | Updated: 8:49 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – Despite the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency concluding an investigation into the head of the Utah National Guard and finding the allegations substantiated, Maj. Gen. Michael Turley said in a statement to KSL Friday afternoon, “I do deny any allegations of an improper relationship.”
Turley also said he had not been provided any report by the government to review and he would be making decisions about future steps after he is able to review the report. His comments to KSL come a day after Gov. Spencer Cox placed Turley on paid-administrative leave.
Governor Cox said in a statement Thursday that he also had not received a copy of the Inspector General’s report but placing Turley on leave was based on information conveyed to the Governor by the department.
The details of the specific allegations made or the nature of any alleged improper relationship involving Turley have not been made public. However several former military leaders told KSL adultery and fraternization are strictly prohibited and considered criminal acts under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
“This is serious misconduct,” said Don Christensen, a retired Air Force colonel who spent decades as the chief prosecutor for the United States Air Force. “It’s misconduct that erodes good order and discipline.”
Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton lead the Utah National Guard for the eight years before Turley took command. He told KSL the military lives by standards that are arguably stricter than those in the civilian sector.
“We’re held to a higher standard and especially when you’re in a position of authority, you cannot and should not interact in that way with a subordinate, who may or may not feel pressured into that kind of situation.”
Gov. Cox called on Brig. Gen. Daniel Boyack to step in as Interim Adjutant General and immediately assume command of the Utah National Guard after placing Turley on leave. In an email sent to members of the guard, officials said Boyack would serve until a permanent selection is made. The email went on to say, “We expect a permanent appointment within the next month.”
An investigation by the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency and its finding of substantiated allegations is not the end of the process involving Turley. Christensen said Turley will have an opportunity to rebut anything in the report before everything is taken into consideration and a potential punishment is issued.
“He’s going to have due process rights through that as the decision is made what to do with him, how to address this. He’ll have due process rights. It could drag out a while,” he said. “It could take quite a while before he’s actually forced to retire, which I’m guessing is what the ultimate result of this will be.”
Christensen noted other possible punishments include a reprimand, Article 15 punishment, or even a court-martial, a proceeding for members of the military that can ultimately result in reduced rank or a financial penalty.
“Based on my experience, what I would expect is that he’d receive some type of reprimand and then be retired,” Christensen said.
Turley himself, Gov. Cox, and other National Guard leadership have all said they have not seen the report with the DAIG’s findings.
“I believe the governor needs access to this report because he’s the one who appoints that individual and he’s the one who has to adjudicate and decide what he’s going to do moving forward,” said Burton.
He indicated due to privacy restrictions regarding DAIG investigations, it’s likely that Gov. Cox may need to request a copy of the report through a government Freedom of Information Act request. Something Burton says shouldn’t be the case.
“The system needs maybe another look to allow him to have that sooner so that he can do what he needs to do.”
KSL submitted a FOIA request for the report on Thursday. In a response to our request Friday, the Army IG Records Release Office said “The approximate date of completion on your request is August 17, 2024, or it could take longer.”
Maj. Gen. Turley was on hand with Governor Cox to greet President Biden as he arrived in Utah last week. In February he attended President Biden’s State of the Union address as a guest of Sen. Mitt Romney. When asked about when Gov. Cox and Sen. Romney first learned of the allegations or investigation into Turley, neither Cox nor Romney’s spokespeople would answer that question. Romney’s office saying instead, “The Senator was not aware at the time of the SOTU.”
KSL has had no response to its inquiry from Cox’s office.