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GOP clarifies its ovation for Kevin Garn

Past actions should not detract from legislator's service, speaker says

Published: Thursday, March 18 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah House Republicans held a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the handling of former Rep. Kevin Garn's admission last week, in the final moments of the 2010 legislative session, to a decades-old nude hot-tubbing incident with a 15-year-old girl.

Some GOP members had expressed disappointment with the lack of warning before Garn's statement and an uncomfortable standing ovation that followed comments made by House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara after Garn's confession.

Following Wednesday's meeting, House Republicans released this statement on the issue:

"We respect former Representative Garn's decision to resign and believe it was appropriate. While not condoning the action, we wish for closure and healing for Cheryl Maher and the Garn family. We hope the people of Utah understand that members of the Legislature do not condone any illegal, unethical or ill-advised behavior."

Clark, who told the Deseret News he knew about the Garn situation on Monday of the session's final week, was the only lawmaker who took the microphone after Garn spoke last Thursday night — most legislators were sitting in stunned silence and several were visibly shaken by the turn of events. In his comments, Clark acknowledged Garn's service to the Legislature.

"We know a man of integrity, of leadership who's worked as a helping hand to members of this body to lift them up, to guide them," Clark said. "I know not of the man you speak, but I know the man that I consider a friend, a leader and an asset to the state of Utah."

"I would ask my fellow colleagues that our hearts might be open. We wish you and your family all of the best and hope that you would remain with us. I would ask all members to join with me in honoring the man we know that has served honorably and capably within this body."

On Saturday, after he received news of Garn's resignation, Clark released a statement that sought to explain that the applause, which he led, was a recognition of Garn's years of work at the Legislature, and not a pardon of his actions.

"Mistakes made many years ago should not detract from the good work the Representative has done during his time in the Utah House of Representatives," Clark said. "Members of the House recognize this. And while not condoning his inappropriate actions, we wanted to show support to a colleague. This is the state of mind that gave rise to the applause directed to Representative Garn on the final night of the session. A standing ovation is a standard custom of the House, and was a natural conclusion to Representative Garn's difficult and emotional statement."

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com

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