A married Republican politician who voted for stricter laws against prostitution has resigned amid allegations he twice met an escort for sex.
Jon E Stanard, a father of three, campaigned for “conservative family values” and “traditional marriage” but is now reported to have paid a woman known professionally as Brie Taylor for sex during two business trips to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2017.
The conservative lawmaker was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2012 and has three children with his wife LeeAnne.
Last year 43-year-old Mr Stanard, of St George, voted in favour of stricter laws on prostitution, including increasing the penalty for soliciting sex to $2,500 (£1,800).
And on his website, which has now been taken down, he stated: "I am a strong advocate for conservative family values. I am pro-life, as well as for traditional marriage.”
But text messages appeared to show that he met Ms Taylor, 39, in Salt Lake City twice last year, after seeing her advert online.
The number they were sent from matched Mr Stanard’s public profile on the Utah House of Representatives website, which has now been removed.
Ms Taylor claimed he paid her $250 for each of the one-hour sessions in June and August during which she says she performed oral sex on him and they had intercourse.
Republican Speaker of the House Greg Hughes released a statement announcing Mr Stanard’s resignation citing “personal and family concerns”.
Mr Stanard’s attorney Walter Bugden said: “Given the current climate in this country with misconduct allegations and the way things are happening in the media right now, there isn’t any explanation that my client could give that would overcome the shadow of these allegations.
“He has resigned his office.”
The Utah House is now investigating claims Mr Stanard used a state-issued mobile phone and hotel room paid for with taxpayer money.
House chief of staff Greg Hartley told the Associated Press in a text message that Mr Stanard, who resigned on Tuesday night, was reimbursed for hotel stays in Salt Lake City in June and August 2017 when he was attending legislative meetings at the state Capitol, four hours from his home.
“It looks like they were legislative days,” Mr Hughes said, adding he did not yet know if the House would ask Mr Stanard to return the hotel reimbursements.
“If there has been an abuse of public funds or if public funds were used in a way that’s inappropriate, we would,” he said. “I don’t have solid answers for those things. I would need to have a way that I would know conclusively that that is the case.”
Mr Hughes said that when Mr Stanard met him on Tuesday night to tell him he was resigning, “there were issues that were weighing on him. What exactly and to the nature, I wasn’t aware. But it was clear that his priority was with his family and was not here”.
He would not say if Mr Stanard spoke about allegations he paid a prostitute for sex, saying it was a personal conversation between colleagues but “it ran the gamut of problems”, and “I did not know there was a story coming, I’ll just say that”.
Ms Taylor described Mr Stanard’s political stance as “hypocritical” and said: “It was inevitable that he had to resign. People here will be grossed out and appalled by this. They thought they knew him.
“I was surprised when I found out that he voted in favour of stricter laws.
“This is a Republican state so you have to stick with your buddies otherwise it will hurt your career but on the other hand, he is a john.
“It is hypocritical because he is supporting laws that make it stricter for other men who do what he does.”
Ms Taylor claimed Mr Stanard, who represented about 32,000 people living in Utah’s District 62, first approached her on 7 March 2017.
He allegedly wrote: “Looking at your website. Can you meet?”
In a second text he added: “Would need to be tonight. Only in town a little. Anytime. Can do in or out. At hotel in downtown SL.”
They exchanged a string of messages but Ms Taylor was unavailable because her 10-year-old son was sick.
He messaged her again the following month but she was again unavailable, and they met for the first time at a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah on 20 June.
Ms Taylor said: “I already knew who he was because I screen all my clients using a phone number service and I Googled him.
“I was surprised that he was using his real phone number. I thought that was kind of stupid but I knew he wasn’t a psycho so I met him.
“He opened the door and he was very nice. He was a gentleman.
“We chatted just briefly and then I got changed out of what I was wearing into lingerie.
“I [later] told him I had Googled him and we talked about what he does. He said he comes up to Salt Lake a lot and he would like to see me again.
“He said he never does this sort of stuff in St George because it is really culturally strict down there.”
The escort of three years has appeared in adult films and previously worked as a webcam performer.
Ms Taylor said Mr Stanard returned on a business trip that summer and they met at the same hotel on 22 August.
Screenshots appeared to show messages sent from Mr Stanard’s mobile phone beginning in March last year and running through to November 2017, when he most recently contacted Ms Taylor.
The scandal comes after Mr Stanard voted in favour of a bill which saw the crime of soliciting a prostitute reclassified from a class B to a class A misdemeanour in March 2017.
If convicted, he could face a $2,500 fine.
The amendment also made it easier for officials to prosecute escorts working independently, as opposed to those operating primarily in brothels or loitering in public.
The allegations against Mr Stanard created a backlash in fiercely Republican Utah, where the majority of the populace is Mormon and politics is heavily influenced by the church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ doctrine bars sexual activity outside of marriage and adultery is regarded as one of the greatest of all the sins next to murder.
In 2016, Utah also became the first to decry pornography as a public health crisis in a bill that Mr Stanard supported.