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Bill creating independent ethics panel in executive branch passes Senate

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 5:00 p.m. MDT

Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem, left, and Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, confer on the House floor on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would create an independent ethics commission in the state's executive branch of government passed the Senate on Monday.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, drafted the measure in the wake of allegations of improper conduct against Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who is now under investigation by the FBI.

Currently, there is no avenue to initiate a complaint against the state's five top elected executives — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and auditor.

SB86 would create a five-member ethics commission comprised of two former lawmakers, two residents and either a retired judge or attorney. The panel would investigate formal complaints of high crimes, misdemeanors and malfeasance in office. It would have subpoena power to call witnesses and produce evidence.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, was the only no vote on the bill.

"I worry that this sends the message that this ethics commission may actually be stronger than it is," he said.

The Senate approved the bill 25-1. It now goes to the House.

E-mail: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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