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Utah Legislature: House Majority Leader Kevin Garn resigns amid scandal

Published: Sunday, March 14 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Rep. Kevin Garn, left, is consoled Thursday after confessing to a nude hot-tubbing incident. His wife, Tanya Garn, is hugged by Pamela Atkinson, right.    (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Rep. Kevin Garn, left, is consoled Thursday after confessing to a nude hot-tubbing incident. His wife, Tanya Garn, is hugged by Pamela Atkinson, right. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, resigned Saturday following a dramatic admission in the closing moments of the 2010 legislative session of a decades-old, nude hot-tubbing incident with a then-15-year-old girl and a payment to the woman in 2002 of $150,000.

And even as he resigned, Cheryl Maher, the woman involved in the 1985 incident, made new allegations about Garn's indiscretions.

Garn sent an e-mail to House Speaker David Clark early Saturday announcing that he was vacating his Davis County seat.

"After discussing this matter with my family, I have decided that it is in the best interests of them, my colleagues and the people of Utah," Garn wrote. "As you know, it is a great honor to serve in the state Legislature. In fact, it has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I am proud of what I accomplished. I am proud to have worked with so many wonderful and talented public servants. I wish to thank those who entrusted me with this responsibility.

Utah House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin Garn is applauded following Utah House Speaker David Clarks remarks attesting to the character of Garn. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin Garn is applauded following Utah House Speaker David Clarks remarks attesting to the character of Garn. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

"I thank you for your steady leadership, and I sincerely apologize for becoming a distraction to the conclusion of an otherwise remarkable legislative session. I hope that my public service has changed Utah for the better."

Clark, R-Santa Clara, said Saturday he was not surprised by Garn's decision.

"I had a sense since I became aware of this on Monday that this could be the outcome," Clark said.

Gov. Gary Herbert also acknowledged Garn's announcement in a statement released by his spokeswoman, Angie Welling.

"The situation is unfortunate," Welling said. "And the governor wishes the best for Rep. Garn and his family during what is undoubtedly a very difficult time."

Cheryl Maher () Cheryl Maher ()

While GOP leaders scramble to find a replacement for Garn, new accusations surfaced Saturday from Cheryl Maher, the woman involved in the 1985 incident, who was an employee at a Layton record store owned by Garn at the time. Maher, who signed a non-disclosure agreement when she accepted the payment from Garn, said she was disappointed in news coverage that she felt made it appear as if she were a "gold digger." She said she wanted the truth to come out, and that truth is that she wasn't the only female employee with whom Garn had contact.

"There were other girls," Maher said. "After me, it was Liz … Liz Moody now. She used to be Liz Smuin."

While Maher did not provide details on the nature of that contact, she said she knew there was "some kind of relationship going on" between then-Smuin and Garn after the woman moved from Garn's Pegasus Records store in Bountiful to the Layton location, where Maher also worked.

 (Illustration by Heather Tuttle, Deseret News) (Illustration by Heather Tuttle, Deseret News)

Reached by phone on Saturday, Moody, now a Kaysville homemaker, did not confirm nor deny the allegations made by Maher and referred the Deseret News to her lawyer. Layton family law attorney Emilie Bean, who said she is representing Moody, also refused to comment on any connection between Moody and Garn or whether there was a pending legal case that may involve Garn.

Attempts to contact Garn on Saturday were unsuccessful.

In the meantime, the Davis County GOP is reeling, trying to deal with a second unexpected resignation in just a few months' time. Former Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack bowed out of his Syracuse seat Jan. 16, following his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.

The county GOP chairwoman, Shirley Bouwhuis, said Saturday that she and other party officers are working on determining a replacement process that jibes with the organization's bylaws. They're faced with finding an immediate replacement to complete Garn's current term, which runs through the end of the year, and someone to run for the now open seat in that district in the November election.

"Right now, it's a bit complicated, and we have to figure out the best way to do this," Bouwhuis said. "It's just so weird that this happened at the beginning of the session, and now we're dealing with it again."

Utah House GOP leadership is also facing replacement issues. While the busy season of the legislative session is over, interim committee work begins in May.

Clark said he expected House Republicans to choose a new leader at a meeting scheduled for May. He also lamented the pre- and post-session losses of Republican legislative leaders.

"To have the session bookended with the losses of the majority leaders in both the Senate and the House was not only a tragic loss of these gifted legislators for the institution, but for their families," Clark said. "The state of Utah comes out a little less whole than when we started."

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com

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