Legislative auditors are digging into the management of the Utah attorney general’s office, but voters may not know the results until after they’ve cast their ballot for or against reelecting Sean Reyes in 2024.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 26 legislators requested a sweeping audit of the office, including how legal decisions are made, details of trips taken by Reyes and whether staff believes the office is being run effectively.
They also want to know more about Reyes’ relationship with Tim Ballard, the founder of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, and whether any state resources were used to help OUR or the making of “Sound of Freedom,” a fictional movie based on Ballard’s story. Auditors are also looking to see whether Reyes engaged with prosecutors investigating OUR and whether Reyes’ close friendship with Ballard impaired the attorney general’s prosecutorial judgment.
A look at investigations released by the legislative auditor general over the past two years shows that, on average, it took about 10 1/2 months from the time the audits were approved to the time they were released — and some of those were much more limited in their breadth.
“An audit of the scope [and] size of the [attorney general’s office] is at least eight months,” Legislative Auditor General Kade Minchey said in an email. “I think 10-12 months is a good estimate.”
That range would put its release anywhere from mid-September to mid-November, well after the Republican primary and potentially after the Nov. 5, 2024 general election.
In September, Reyes posted on social media that he had decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mitt Romney and instead announced he would seek reelection as attorney general. He said his decision cleared the way for a “dear friend of mine who is a great conservative, patriot, and warrior to run.” That friend was Ballard.
On Thursday, former state representative and past Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown said he was forming an exploratory committee, led by former Gov. Gary Herbert, to decide if he would run for the office. There are also rumors of other potential candidates interested in the post.
The last time the legislative auditors issued a report on the attorney general’s office was in 2015. Those audits were launched in July 2013 while the office was embroiled in a scandal that led to the resignation of then-Attorney General John Swallow and the appointment of Reyes as his replacement.
But at that time the auditors’ work was put on hold so it would not interfere with criminal investigations of the office. Swallow was later charged with multiple felonies but acquitted by a jury.