More ethics complaints could be filed in the Legislature over "punitive actions" that some legislators, even lobbyists, have seen, several lawmakers said this week.
Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, confirmed along with several other lawmakers interviewed by the Deseret News that more formal requests could be coming.
"You take this a step at a time," said Hansen, referring to an ethics investigation he and several other Democrats and Republicans filed this week concerning allegations that Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, may have made an illegal offer of employment or pay raise in his run for the GOP nomination in the state treasurer's race.
Chief deputy treasurer Richard Ellis won the GOP nomination in Tuesday's primary election, beating Walker handily, 59-41 percent. But the Ellis victory may well have come because Ellis accused Walker of offering to keep him on as chief deputy if he (Ellis) dropped out of the treasurer's race, even offered him a $56,000 pay raise.
Walker denies any wrongdoing, saying he only offered to keep all treasurer office employees on, should Walker win, because so many good employees were worried about their jobs.
Walker denies ever offering Ellis a pay raise. But Ellis says that Walker told him that through Walker's connection with GOP House leaders he was told that he "could make it happen" make sure the Legislature approved a bigger budget for the treasurer's office, allowing for the pay raise.
Hansen said just recently he heard that a legislator warned a lobbyist that the lobbyist had better get "behind a certain candidate or any bill that that lobbyist wanted would be dead.
"It is those kinds of stories that I've heard in my 10 years up here. It is just wrong these punitive kinds of things going on," said Hansen. "Other ethics complaints could well be coming," he added, saying the culture of the Legislature has to change.
Hansen said that already he has heard "of punitive actions could be coming against us" the five representatives who filed the complaint against Walker. "I guess we'll see what happens," said Hansen.
Those asking for Walker to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee include: Hansen, Reps. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake (who is not running for re-election); Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake (a member of House Democratic leadership); Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful; and Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan.
House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, refers to Allen and Mascaro as "dissident Republicans" who have been courted by Democrats to switch parties. Both Allen and Mascaro are leaders in the so-called Reagan Caucus in the House, a group of 15 or 20 moderate House members who in recent years have had run-ins with GOP House leaders.
Hansen said two years ago he tried to get a pay raise for the state auditor, an office held for years by Republicans. Current auditor Austin Johnson is a Republican. A bill was being run by a House GOP leader to raise the treasurer's pay.
"When I tried to get a raise for the auditor in that bill thinking it was only fair they (GOP leaders) fought against it," said Hansen. He tried to find out why and was told that Johnson was involved in a legal case that some House Republicans didn't like so didn't want Johnson's pay raised.
"We have to get away from this punitive attitude," said Hansen."In the Legislature we do things that either help people or hurt people. And (the current GOP attitude) is to do things that hurt people. Why? Let's just do what is true, what is honest, what is best for the most people. More ethics investigations could be coming if what we're seeing is just wrong. And we'll see what happens," said Hansen.
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