Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, should "thank his lucky stars" that the House ethics committee has been busy investigating House Speaker Jim Wright - otherwise it would have been investigating Owens more carefully, said Rep. Jim Hansen.
Hansen, R-Utah, told reporters that the ethics committee - on which he serves - has been so busy dealing with Wright that it simply had to let go of other investigations it normally would spend more time with, including one filed against Owens last year."Wayne should thank his lucky stars that the Jim Wright case was here," Hansen said. When asked if Owens' case may resurface once the Wright case is resolved, Hansen said, "It very likely could."
Last year, then-Republican State Party Chairman Craig Moody filed a complaint with the ethics committee that Owens improperly allowed a Utah Power & Light lobbyist to essentially act as one of his aides in ways that benefited UP&L - including using his office space, drafting legislation and scheduling meetings.
The charges were dismissed because of "technical deficiencies," but could be refiled. Meanwhile, Moody is now seen as a likely candidate against Owens next year. And Owens has hired the lobbyist in question - Kenley Brunsdale - as his administrative assistant.
Owens told the Deseret News that he was "shocked" by Hansen's comments. "It's a kind of mean-spirited thing to say." He said charges against him were "purely political, as anyone can see" and he did not expect them to arise in the ethics committee again unless someone re-files them. "We will deal with that if it happens."