COLUMN: Reyes needs to restore trust in Utah AG office
Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014
Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2014 17:01
Welcome to Pierucci’s Politics. This is the first of many opinion pieces I will write for this column. I love public policy and politics. It is important that we as citizens of a representative democratic republic maintain at least a basic awareness of our government’s actions. I hope this column will be a place for you to come and learn about local, state, national and international issues. January is a great month, because it marks the start of a new year. New Year’s Day brings new beginnings like my new column.
For the state of Utah, the new year has brought an end to the controversial service of the state’s attorney general and seen the rise of a new attorney general. These recent events may have gone unnoticed by many of you, which is completely understandable since they took place while we were in the midst of finals and winter break.
John Swallow announced his resignation as attorney general in late November, and officially resigned Dec. 3. Swallow’s resignation spared taxpayers millions of dollars from ongoing investigations related to alleged violations of campaign finance fraud. Interestingly enough, it has been reported that Dec. 3 also marked the date which Swallow could qualify for a state pension.
At this point you might be asking yourself, what in the world does the attorney general do, and why should I care? Well, according to the Utah state constitution, the attorney general “shall be the legal adviser of the State officers … and shall perform such other duties as provided by law.”
In addition, the attorney general prosecutes or defends all causes in which the state or a state agency is a party, initiates legal proceedings on behalf of the state and performs many other necessary and vital duties. Essentially, the attorney general is the state’s lawyer.
With the Swallow’s resignation, Gov. Gary Herbert had to appoint an acting attorney general. He selected Brian Tarbet, an adjunct professor here at USU and former adjutant general of the Utah National Guard for the job. Tarbet was to hold the position until a new attorney general could be selected by the Utah Republican Party State Central Committee. The SCC is the governing body of the state GOP. It is made up of locally elected delegates from around the state. Nine candidates initially filed for the position, but two dropped out of the race for varying reasons.
All of the candidates running for attorney general were extremely qualified. A former Utah Supreme Court justice, an associate dean of BYU’s law school and a Fraternal Order of Police attorney were just some of the few experienced attorneys who threw their hats in the ring. There was some controversy over whether or not it would be better to select an attorney general who would not run in the special election that will be held in November 2014.
A televised debate between the candidates was held the Wednesday before the SCC voted. The SCC met to consider the candidates and to vote for who they wanted to be the next attorney general. After many rounds of voting, three finalists were chosen: Sean Reyes, Brian Tarbet and Robert Smith.