A group of Republican and Democratic Utah House members have officially filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy.
The complaint seeks to see whether the House Ethics Committee should take any action concerning Walker's conduct during the state treasurer's race. Richard Ellis, who defeated Walker in Tuesday's GOP treasurer's primary election, alleges that Walker offered him a job and a raise not to run against Walker in the treasurer's race.
The action is another example of a split that has been developing between moderate and conservative Utah House Republicans.
Reps. Roz McGee and Phil Riesen, both D-Salt Lake; Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden; Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful; and Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan; want the Ethics Committee to look at four things, they said in a press release Thursday:
Whether it was an abuse of power by Walker if indeed he did offer Ellis, who is now chief deputy treasurer, a job and salary increase if he would withdraw from the race.
Whether it is a criminal violation of election laws, and whether an as-yet unnamed legislator "colluded with Walker to offer assurances that the money to fund the Ellis salary increase would be provided by the Legislature."
Whether Walker violated the state constitution by voting for a specific pay raise for the treasurer, and then ran for the office for which he voted for a pay hike (i.e. the treasurer's position). The representatives also want to know if Walker would have been banned from serving in the treasurer's office because of that pay-hike vote.
Whether these allegations, if accurate and taken together, violate the constitutional limitations on legislative compensation.
Because he was running for treasurer, Walker did not file for re-election to his House seat. He officially leaves his House seat next January.
The House only has the power to discipline a sitting member so if Walker were to resign his seat, no ethics violations could harm him, even if he was found culpable by the House Ethics Committee.
However, anticipating that Walker may resign, Hansen said the complaints against Walker are "bigger" than just Walker's individual situation."It's important that the (ethics) inquiry pursue all allegations to determine whether other legislators inappropriately or unethically colluded with Walker by giving him assurances that the state budget would be adjusted to provide the $56,000 salary increase" for Ellis to drop out of the race, said Hansen.