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State Auditor criticizes transgender bill that made him ‘bathroom monitor’

By Ben Winslow

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    SALT LAKE CITY (KSTU) — The toilet flushes and Utah State Auditor John “Frugal” Dougall steps out of the stall.

“Oh hi! Are you the bathroom monitor? I actually thought the legislature assigned me to be the bathroom monitor!” he exclaims.

In a video posted Monday night on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Dougall criticized the transgender bathroom bill for a provision he said was dropped on his office with no consultation about its impacts. On the video, he’s standing in a restroom on Utah’s Capitol Hill as he criticizes Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Mountain Green, for running a bill that she “doesn’t seem to actually understand” and implying “I didn’t care about women’s safety in bathrooms.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth. And if this bill were actually about making girls safer? You would think the Legislature would actually spend some money retrofitting bathrooms and providing greater privacy and greater safety?” he said. “Instead, it looks like this piece of the bill was really more about show than substance. But it wouldn’t be the first time the legislature did something like that, would it?” he said.

In an interview with FOX 13 News on Tuesday, the Republican state auditor (and candidate for 3rd Congressional District) said his office has been bombarded with nearly 12,000 hoax complaints about “violations” of the state’s new law governing transgender people and the restrooms they can use in public facilities.

“They’re all still frivolous. We haven’t seen a legitimate complaint yet,” Dougall said.

The bill, which triggered a lot of protest when it passed the legislature earlier this year, blocks transgender people from using a public restroom or public locker room facility consistent with their gender identity unless they have fully transitioned. It also demands that any new construction in public buildings include more private, gender neutral spaces. (None of it applies to private businesses, who are free to do as they wish.)

Dougall said the bill also requires his office to administer a place for people to report potential violations of the unisex space provision. But he insists he was not consulted on it when lawmakers pushed the bill through. The Utah State Auditor’s Office was required to come up with a form that they’re now being trolled with.

“My piece deals with governmental entities. Whether they have compliance plans or when they remodel or expand facilities when it comes to locker rooms and bathrooms, whether they comply with state statute. That’s what my piece does,” Dougall told FOX 13 News. “I’ve got folks on the left and the right who think it’s about individuals using the wrong restrooms that doesn’t match their sex or gender. It doesn’t use my piece of the bill.”

On Tuesday, Dougall released a sampling of the thousands of hoax complaints his office has received. Some appear to be generated by bots, while others are filled with profanities expressing displeasure with what the Utah State Legislature ultimately passed.

“Hi, I’m a concerned citizen just calling to say suck my — and lick my —, you fascist, transphobic —!” one person said in a profane tirade left on his office’s voicemail.

“You suck — and I hate you, you’re going to —ing die someday and I hope you die soon,” another caller said in a message.

In a statement to FOX 13 News, Rep. Birkeland said she was not surprised by what has happened and defended the decision to involve the Utah State Auditor’s Office.

“It’s not surprising that activists are taking the time to send false reports. But that isn’t a distraction from the importance of the legislation and the protection it provides women across Utah. We remain focused on protecting girls in our school bathrooms and locker rooms and women in public bathrooms and locker rooms,” she said.

“When considering which office should oversee the enforcement of this new rule, we weighed many options, but ultimately decided the State Auditor was best suited to field reports. We appreciate their cooperation and willingness to implement state code. Backlash from this legislation was completely expected, but at the end of the day, we do what is best for Utah, despite outcries from a loud and vocal minority. And by the way, auditing governmental entities and complaints against them is the responsibility of the state auditors office.”

LGBTQ rights groups FOX 13 News contacted have declined to comment on the flood of complaints that people have submitted to the Utah State Auditor’s Office.

Dougall said his office was tracking how much time has been spent looking into the complaints to show lawmakers how much taxpayer money is being expended. He said so far, there has been no signal that the legislature plans to modify the demand that the Utah State Auditor take complaints.

“I haven’t heard any indication that they want to modify any provision yet at this point,” he said.

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