[Political Scandals] Rep. Mark Walker was not to be seen at this morning's House Ethics Committee meeting, where members gathered to determine whether enough evidence existed to pursue allegations of ethics violations against the 32-year-old Sandy Republican.
He must have been out somewhere nursing two arms that GOP leaders broke over the weekend.
That's because it turned out Walker abruptly resigned Sunday night, turning over a letter "explaining" his decision to House Speaker Greg Curtis. (The gist: his wife and family can no longer take the ugly turmoil and attacks others have brought upon him.) So, when the ethics panel convened at the state Capitol, ready to investigate allegations that Walker tried to bribe his GOP opponent for State Treasurer, Richard Ellis, into quitting the race, there was no longer anything to discuss. Committee Chairman Rep. Todd Kiser, a fellow Sandy Republican (Walker, Kiser, Curtis--all Repubs from Sandy--are you seeing a pattern here?), announced the lawmakers now lacked jurisdiction to pursue the case any further.
Criminal charges may be forthcoming; the case rests with the Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller, also a Republican.
The case boiled down to charges that Walker had offered Ellis a job and a substantial pay increase at the treasure's office if he would drop out before the GOP primary. Ellis, an assistant in the current treasure's office, held his ground. Then late last month, an e-mail surfaced backing up Ellis' claim about Walker's alleged bribe. The House Ethics Committee took up the matter--only the third time in 22 years the group has addressed such a violation.
I talked to Ellis, who beat Walker in the primary, after the 11-minute meeting was adjourned. "I'm suprised [at the outcome]," Ellis said. Ellis showed up with a stack of documents and other paperwork regarding his testimony--he apparently didn't get the resignation memo. "I was subpoenaed to be here today," he said. "Essentially I was prepared to discuss my affidavit with the committee, which is public record." Ellis said he'll stand by his account of events with his opponent, and is ready to testify in any criminal case, should it go that far. Meanwhile, he said, "I'll just pursue my election."
The Democrats on the committee, naturally, were not apprised of the sudden turn of events. "Pretty anti-climactic," is the way Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, described the morning.
Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake, has announced she won't seek resignation, having spent two terms as a lone voice in the wilderness on political ethics issues. She spoke with the freedom of a lame duck today.
"I'm disappointed," McGee said afterward. "It's a committee that's only met twice in all these years; I think it shows the emphasis this body puts on ethics. It's a different story out in the community. Members of the community who follow these issues, and they do, have told me they feel these matters are important. They want some accountability in this [legislature].