Current Utah law would have required Utah’s Attorney General to investigate a complaint against himself of violating Utah’s election rules. But the Utah State Senate passed a bill Thursday afternoon to give that job to an independent lawyer.
The leadership of the Utah Senate drafted Senate Bill 289 in a hurry – the lieutenant governor asked for a change in the law just a couple of days ago. They went ahead with a committee hearing this afternoon, and heard concerns from Senator Lyle Hillyard that the special counsel that would investigate complaints against the Attorney General could get expensive. He wants to avoid hiring a private attorney.
“Obviously I’m not going to amend the bill," Hillyard told the committee, "But I really would like to see the lieutenant governor go to a county and get a deputy county attorney, who’s not politically involved, and have them handle the investigation.”
Maryann Martindale of the Alliance for a Better Utah is one of the voters listed on the complaint. She was pleased that the Republican leadership acted so quickly, and she’s not so worried about the cost.
“We have a real concern with ethical, campaign violation breaches, potential illegal breaches by the attorney general of the state of Utah," Martindale told KUER. "I think that concern over that and the need for a thorough investigation countermands any concerns over the cost.”
The Senate took up the bill shortly after it came back on the floor and passed it by a vote of 27 to 0. Now it goes on to the House, where it’s likely to pass before the end of the session at midnight.