Hill accuses Utah AG of ethical lapse

Chris Rizo Jun. 10, 2008, 4:42pm

Jean Welch Hill

Mark Shurtleff

SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline)-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff erred in holding a fundraiser for a state treasurer candidate, his Democratic challenger said.

Jean Welch Hill said by holding a political fundraiser for a candidate "that could soon be under investigation by the attorney general's office, Mark Shurtleff has plunged his office into an obvious conflict of interest."

Hill said in a statement: "His actions flunk common sense and legal ethics 101."

Shurtleff co-hosted the event for state Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, who is running for Utah treasurer.

Walker is accused of offering Chief Deputy Treasurer Richard Ellis a job and a hefty raise were he to exit the treasurer's race.

The Republican attorney general did not attend the fundraiser because he was recovering from surgery that day to repair a leg injury.

Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the attorney general's office told Legal Newsline there have been instances in the office where attorneys have "created a firewall" to operate independently on an investigation where a potential conflict exists.

Hill is a longtime attorney for the Utah State Board of Education, whom was stripped of the title of special assistant to the attorney general last year by Shurtleff over her legal recommendation to schools not to implement a voucher system for Utah's schools.

Shurtleff's political adviser, Jason Powers, told LNL the logic behind Hill's denouncement is "presumptive, flawed, and naive," noting that
Shurtleff endorsed Walker before the allegations were made.

"It is clear that her statements are more motivated by politics than by facts," he said. "She is behind in the polls with little money looking for earned media."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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