On Tuesday, past and current House Democratic leaders once again called on Representative Justin Miller (Democrat – Salt Lake City) to resign his post amid controversy surrounding Miller’s alleged embezzlement of over $30,000 from Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ (Democrat) reelection campaign.
In the Salt Lake Tribune sponsored Trib Talk, current House Democratic Leader, Brian King (Salt Lake City), reiterated that the House Democrats have called on Miller to resign largely because the caucus feels that Miller is unable to adequately perform his duties as a lawmaker while having to defend himself in the court of public opinion and, potentially, in a court of law.
“We are very concerned in making sure that public trust in our elected officials exists – we have talked about that as Democrats for a long time, we have talked about that as legislators for a long time, and it is very important to us that people feel that they can have confidence in their legislators,” King told The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jennifer Napier-Pearce, adding that “we want to make sure the folks in House District 40, Representative Miller’s district, are well represented.”
King would go on to say that “it became apparent to [the Democratic caucus] that this was something that, if there were serious allegations against Representative Miller, he had to deal with those outside of serving as a legislator…we want to deal with the reality that there are some allegations that have been made that are very serious and that the people of House District 40 need to be represented.”
King showed frustration when asked his feelings on Miller’s refusal to step down, calling Miller’s actions (such as making counter-accusations towards McAdams, the Salt Lake City Police Department, and overall unwillingness to step down) a distraction and diversion before ultimately admitting with a tinge of defeat that “it is what it is.”
Former House Minority Leader and current lobbyist, Frank Pignanelli, was more direct.
“[Miller] is a blemish upon the House Democratic caucus, he is a blemish upon the institution of the legislature. It is clear cut that he embezzled those funds, so any time that he goes to a meeting, which he continues to do so, any time he says anything, speaks, trying to do his job as a legislator – he has blemished the fact that he has admittedly stole money from Mayor Ben McAdams,” a blunt Pignanelli stated, adding that “[Miller] is now trying to cover his tracks and refocus the discussion.”
“He is completely ineffective as a legislator…he needs to go, he needs to do the right thing. Unfortunately he has sociopathic tendencies in trying to make a victim out of himself,” according to Pignanelli. Continuing to not pull punches, he went on to say that “Justin Miller deserves to be in the nether regions of whatever political Hell there is.”
At the core of Miller’s accusations is that McAdams, by way of Salt Lake County government, was engaging in sweetheart deals with the lobbying and public relations organization, The Exoro Group. Something Pignanelli would call a “diversion…with the hope that, somehow, [Miller] can deflect either public or legal attention.”
King would close by stating that “you have an overriding obligation as a representative to represent well the individuals in your district – and it takes a lot of time and energy, it takes a lot of commitment, it takes a focus that is very draining,” and adding that it is difficult that any lawmaker could fend off such allegations while serving his district at the same time.
“I can’t imagine that, if charges are brought, that Representative Miller is going to be able to stay in office,” King would note.
Miller, for his part, continues to remain steadfast against the calls to step down.