Salt Lake City — Two good government groups joined forces today to petition Gov. Gary Herbert to appoint an interim attorney general who will not stand for reelection in November 2014.
Representatives from Utahns for Ethical Government and the Alliance for a Better UTAH hand delivered a letter to Herbert asking him to avoid partisan maneuvering as he considers the state Republican Central Committee’s nominees for state attorney general.
“The public’s faith in our elected officials has been rocked to its core due to the months of scandal plaguing the Attorney General’s office,” said the letter. “The ideal candidate must be someone who is ethically, morally and legally beyond reproach. Someone who is not seen as a partisan insider who hopes to hold the office for the long-term; rather, someone who will take the reins, roll up his or her sleeves, and do what’s necessary to restore integrity to the office. And then leave.”
[Full copy of the letter is available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/190760937/Letter-to-Gov-Herbert-Re-AG-Replacement]
Representatives from the two groups included Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better UTAH, Dixie Huefner, communications chair for Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG), and David Irvine, co-counsel for UEG and board member for Better UTAH.
All spoke about the imperative that Herbert appoint an interim attorney general who won’t immediately start campaigning for election, even if that means going outside of the central committee’s suggested appointees.
“If the Republican Party–my party–doesn’t send the right name to the Governor, he should hold off on an appointment until they do,” said Irvine. “The corrosive politicalization of the AG’s office in recent years has created the perception that the office can be rented out to the shadiest of operators who’ll pony up an acceptable bid.”
“What’s needed to restore public trust is an AG whose stature, proven leadership skills, sterling legal credentials, and personal integrity will allow the next year’s focus to be on restoring the professionalism of the office and the esprit of its corps of dedicated lawyers,” continued Irvine. “Doing that and simultaneously running for election are mutually exclusive. Utah needs a believable commitment to public service, not a political power grab.”
Herbert will appoint a new attorney general within the next few weeks in the wake of former Attorney General John Swallow’s resignation. Swallow’s resignation was due in part to the release of a special investigator’s report by the Lt. Governor’s Office after petitioners with Better UTAH filed an official election law violation complaint. The report charged Swallow with five counts of election law violations.
“Those violations were serious enough to precipitate Swallow’s resignation,” said Martindale. “But they should do more than that. They should serve as a rallying point for pushing aggressive changes in election law, including campaign finance laws, as well as state ethics laws.”
UEG’s Huefner went even further in her criticism, arguing that Utah’s reputation as a place of honesty and accountability depends on who Herbert appoints as Swallow’s replacement.
“Grubbing for money from questionable special interest groups in order to mount a campaign raises serious ethical issues,” said Huefner. “Utah needs the Governor to appoint an attorney who is not caught up in the need to raise campaign money over the coming year. We also need election reforms to stop the kind of fundraising that both former Attorney Generals Shurtleff and Swallow have engineered and which has really harmed Utah’s reputation for good government.”
Better UTAH and UEG have a history of advocating for more open and transparent government. In 2012, UEG mounted a citizen-driven effort for a statewide ethics initiative. Though the organization gathered nearly 130,000 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, a state court later blocked the initiative after the state legislature changed the requirements for placing an initiative on the ballot.
Executive Director, Alliance for a Better UTAH
801.557.1532 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications Director, Alliance for a Better UTAH
801.664.9751 | email@example.com
Alliance for a Better UTAH | 801.557.1532 | www.betterutah.org
The Alliance for a Better UTAH is a year-round, multi-issue education and advocacy organization providing resources, commentary, and action on important public policy matters.