Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert told the Utah Supreme Court Thursday that he made a "reasonable decision" to postpone action on an election complaint in the state treasurer's race until after the June 24 primary.
"I have no intention, motive or purpose to aid or hurt any candidate in this primary election," Herbert said in an affidavit filed in advance of a high court hearing set for 2 p.m. today on a petition filed by treasurer candidate Richard Ellis.
Ellis is asking the court to force the lieutenant governor to decide now whether allegations he has made against his primary opponent, Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, warrant further investigation. Ellis and Walker face each other in that primary election.
Walker is accused by Ellis of illegally offering him the opportunity to keep his job as chief deputy state treasurer at a higher salary if he dropped out of the race. Walker has denied the allegations.
The state said in a response filed with the supreme court Thursday that even if Herbert turned over the allegations to the attorney general's office for further investigation, it still would take "a significant period of time" to determine if any laws were broken.
That's because as the state's chief elections officer, the lieutenant governor is only responsible for reviewing election complaints to determine if they warrant a special investigation by the Attorney General's Office.
Herbert, the state response said, "has neither the authority to resolve or make any final determination of the claims asserted by Ellis nor the authority to remove Ellis' opponent, Mark Walker, from the ballot."
The lieutenant governor said in his affidavit he deferred his decision on Ellis' complaint "for the public purpose to avoid my actions potentially influencing the election improperly" and that his "sole motivation is maintaining the integrity of the election process."
Ellis said voters should be told before the election whether Herbert believes there's any merit to his allegations.
"It makes a difference to voters," Ellis said. "Voters ought to know that because this office is all about integrity."
Walker, though, said the lieutenant governor is right to wait.
"I think he's taking the right step here," Walker said. "I'm not sure what referring it a few days before the election is going to do."The lieutenant governor's chief of staff, Joe Demma, said "there's no way, regardless of any determination Gary makes, to resolve this by election day. If he forwards this to the Attorney General's Office, it's going to be months."