Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes holds a brief press conference at the Utah State Capitol on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
Utah attorney general candidates focus on public trust
First Published Aug 30 2014 04:06 pm • Last Updated Aug 30 2014 10:28 pm

As Utah’s two previous top lawmen face charges of bribery and other crimes, the candidates running to replace them as state attorney general this year each promise to repair public trust and reform the scandal-rocked office.

"It’s the thing that’s on the top of everybody’s mind," Democratic contender Charles Stormont told The Associated Press. "They want to know, What are you going to do to make sure that can’t happen again?"

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Sean Reyes, his Republican opponent and the interim Utah attorney general, said he gets asked about his predecessors, "I don’t even know how many times a day. There’s obviously a great deal of interest."

Both candidates speak about new avenues for ethics complaints and accountability. Each has pledged to avoid campaign donations from industries that could create a conflict of interest with the attorney general’s office.

John Swallow, who resigned from the office in late 2013, spent much of last year battling allegations of murky dealings with businessmen, some in trouble with regulators.

Swallow and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff were charged this summer with bribery and a host of other counts. They’ve denied any wrongdoing.

Reyes treads carefully when discussing the issue, saying he wants to let the bribery case against his fellow Republicans play out.

At the same time, Reyes speaks from the office of the attorney general and the campaign trail about fixing the public’s broken faith in the office.

Reyes was appointed in December to hold the office until this November’s election to fill the last two years of Swallow’s term.

Most years, the attorney general’s race is eclipsed by higher profile elections for president, the governor or U.S. senator.

story continues below
story continues below

Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah, said this year’s race is unusual because it involves an unelected incumbent and comes in the wake of a high profile scandal.

The scandal gives Democrats and Stormont a better-than-usual chance this year, but "on the other hand," Burbank said, "if you had to bet on somebody, you’d probably bet on Reyes to keep his position, just because he’s a Republican in a remarkably Republican state."

During the eight months Reyes has been in office, he’s replaced half a dozen top managers and ordered an outside investigation into Shurtleff’s influence on a fraud case years ago.

Stormont says Reyes hasn’t done enough, and has said the same Republicans who picked Shurtleff and Swallow "also helped bring us Sean Reyes."

Reyes said he expects such arguments but said they won’t stick. "People realize very clearly that this is a totally different regime," he said.

Reyes cites his decision to ask 16 division directors to re-apply for their jobs, along with about 100 other candidates. Only one executive-level employee has remained in place from previous administrations, he said.

"Anybody who tries to make that case, that we haven’t shaken things up, needs to just come and look at the before-and-after picture," he said.

Stormont, who has spent the past six years working in the civil division of the attorney general’s office, said morale among his colleagues is low.

"They’re incredibly frustrated at the negative press the office continues to receive," Stormont said. "And they’re incredibly frustrated by some of the decisions that Sean is making."

He cites "political litigation" such as the ongoing legal defense of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban for that low-morale.

Defending the ban is a waste of money, according to Stormont, who touts an endorsement from one of the gay couples who challenged the law.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.