State treasurer candidate Richard Ellis said he may go to court today to force Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert to take action on his allegations that his GOP primary opponent illegally offered him a job in exchange for dropping out of the race.
"We're seriously looking at filing some type of petition for relief with the judicial system," Ellis told the Deseret News. He said he was meeting this afternoon with his attorney to finalize the details.
Ellis also said that if his allegations against his opponent, Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, end up being referred by the lieutenant governor to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for possible prosecution, a special counsel should be appointed to handle the case.
Shurtleff is actively supporting Walker, as are other Republican leaders.
"That's an obvious conflict," Ellis said, noting that any efforts by the attorney general's staff to maintain independence could fail. "They still have the potential to be influenced because this is highly political," he said.
Shurtleff's Democratic opponent in the attorney general's race, Jean Welch Hill, agreed special counsel should be appointed.
"I don't see how you can guarantee a fair vetting in the AG's office when the AG is obviously so close to Mr. Walker and so biased in this campaign," Welch said. "It's a matter of building public trust."
Herbert announced Friday he was postponing action on the complaint until after the state's June 24 primary out of concern "any action on my part at this time could influence participation in or the outcome of" the election because of early voting.
Ellis said he has several legal options available, but may ask the Utah Supreme Court for an expedited hearing on the matter. He said he wants Herbert to make a decision about whether his allegations merit further investigation before the primary.
Walker has denied the allegations, although he has said he told Ellis in March that if elected, he would not fire anyone currently working in the state treasurer's office including Ellis, who serves as chief deputy state treasurer.State Treasurer Ed Alter announced last year he would not seek reelection after 28 years in the state's top financial spot and endorsed Ellis, who has also served in the administrations of several Republican governors.