“Legal excellence.” “Win the right way.” “Integrity.” “Trust.” “Progress.” “Leadership.” “Merit.” These are some of the daily buzzwords spoken throughout the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) today. Combined with concepts we emphasize like innovation, teamwork, accountability, responsibility, professionalism and you get a flavor for the positive and dynamic direction of the office now.
This was not the case just 10 months ago when I inherited an agency demoralized by scandal and inefficiency. The vast majority of professionals in the AGO are dedicated and honorable public servants who for years weren’t given adequate resources, respect or tools to succeed, nor were they given clear, consistent and sufficient topline leadership to meet the many demands placed on the AGO. Largely left to their own devices, they did their best in the absence of proper technology, systems, raises, infrastructure and without basic management tools such as progress evaluations to adequately address promotion or discipline.
In spite of talented lawyers, investigators, paralegals and committed staff, the quality of work in the office suffered in key places, there was no unifying sense of team or family, upper management was largely absentee and decisions made at the top often seemed motivated by political agendas or outside interests.
Today, decisions are based on what the law and our duty requires. How much someone has contributed (or not) politically or what religion or political party they belong to have no influence on the cases we pursue.
People can disagree with cases my office has defended or positions we have taken, but what is indisputable (unless for purely political purposes) is that the AG’s office (and the state of Utah as a result) is better off now. The outcomes simply don’t lie. I will highlight a few:
Utahns are safer from violent crimes, drugs and Internet predators today. In the last 10 months, the AGO has spearheaded the largest synthetic marijuana bust, largest human trafficking case and teamed with the DEA for the largest heroin bust in Utah history. We have increased resources and results in capturing and prosecuting pornographers and sexual predators. And we have protected civil liberties by abolishing administrative subpoenas, working on forfeiture and search/seizure laws and leading out on criminal justice reform.
Utahns are safer from Ponzi schemes, bad business practices and white-collar crimes. To address the billions lost annually in Utah, I created a white-collar division to more aggressively and effectively pursue scammers and identity thieves. We have teamed with organizations like the AARP to educate citizens while increasing prosecutions, like the $70 million case filed recently (second largest in Utah history).
I have restructured both our internal ethics committee and our committee investigating civil violations by government officials. I created a public corruption investigation unit to pursue criminal breaches of public trust. We have protected whistle-blowers while also increasing resources to match the 70 percent increase in GRAMA (records) requests. And, on my campaign, we have carefully vetted donations, even turning some down, to avoid even perceptions of any conflicts.
We increased compensation to become competitive with other government agencies, improved technology, amplified training on ethics and skills, enhanced mentoring and raised quality of work among many other improvements.
Today, clients are happy with us. Employees are re-energized. We have regained trust from citizens as well as leaders in law, business, education, law enforcement and government.
We have made great strides in a short time. But we need to continue to improve and do more. That is why I am asking for your support to build on the incredible momentum in the AGO.
Throughout my career, I have led organizations to success and large legal teams to victory.
That is the experience Utah needs and deserves right now.
Appointed by the governor in December 2013, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is seeking election.