SALT LAKE CITY -- After weeks of relative silence, members of Utah's House Minority Caucus banded together to call on one of their own to resign from office.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, called on Rep. Justin Miller to resign from office in the face of a criminal investigation where he is accused of stealing more than $30,000 from the campaign of his former boss, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
"There is no timetable in place for the completion of the criminal investigations," King told reporters on Monday. "The information that has been made available in the media undermines the confidence our constituents should have in their legislature. The ongoing investigations significantly impair the ability of Rep. Miller to effectively represent the constituents of House District 40."
But Miller told FOX 13's Ben Winslow he had no intention of resigning -- at least not yet.
"It is unfortunate that despite an ongoing investigation, the House Democrats have rushed to judgment and called for my resignation. I take their position on this matter very seriously and will be taking the next couple of days to discuss with family the next actions to take," he wrote in an email.
The allegations first surfaced last month when McAdams accused Miller, his former re-election campaign manager and associate deputy mayor, of taking thousands from his campaign accounts. Miller, in turn, accused McAdams of corruption involving some government contracts (the Salt Lake County District Attorney said Miller's claims were without merit).
"I'm grateful the House Democrats are taking seriously the allegations about Rep. Miller," McAdams told FOX 13 on Monday. I look forward to what I hope is a prompt resolution."
The Salt Lake City Police Department continues to investigate the theft accusations against Miller. The FBI on Monday told FOX 13 it could not confirm or deny its involvement. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said last week that he would examine the accusations lobbed by both sides and determine if it merits any charges.
House Democrats acknowledged they have no ability to pursue a legislative ethics investigation that could drive Miller from office (he has not been charged with a crime and the alleged misconduct occurred when he was not in office), but they were exploring other ways he could be ousted.
"This impacts the legislature as a whole. This impacts how the public views us," said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City.
Even Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, has had a "very frank conversation" with Miller, FOX 13 was told.
"The Speaker told him that his priorities need to be to his family and, as a member of the House of Representatives, protecting the integrity of the institution -- with that in mind, act accordingly," Hughes' Chief of Staff, Greg Hartley, said. "There should be no doubt in Rep. Miller's mind where the Speaker stands on this matter."
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, urged Miller to think of his Millcreek-area constituents.
Meanwhile, Miller may be "persona non grata" on the Hill. Rep. King said the House caucus would find it difficult to "welcome him with open arms."
Read the transcript of House Minority Leader Brian King's prepared statement:
Thank you for coming this morning. Representative Briscoe, the Assistant Whip for the House Democratic Caucus, and I, the leader of the caucus, are here with other members of the caucus. We excuse Representative Chavez-Houck, the whip of the caucus, who is out of town on a long planned family trip. Representative Brad King is also unable to attend. We also excuse Representative Arent, who is the vice chair of the House Ethics Committee, along with Representatives Wheatley, Poulson, and Romero who also serve on the House Ethics Committee in light of their possible need to act in that capacity in connection with allegations against Representative Miller.
Members of the House, and specifically members of the House Democratic Caucus, feel strongly about the need for elected representatives to act in a way that warrants the public trust. We believe in, and have often talked about, the need to be ethical, to act in a way that is transparent in our dealings with our constituents, and to be accountable when we err in our judgment in matters that can call into question our integrity as public officials. It is essential that we conduct ourselves in a way that allows us to be effective in acting as representatives for our constituents and for all the people of Utah.
Since allegations of Representative Miller misappropriating funds from the campaign account of the Salt Lake County Mayor were reported in the media last month, there has been much comment and speculation about those allegations. We, along with many of you, have read about the allegations and we are very troubled by them. More complete and accurate information about these allegations has been slow in coming.
Since the allegations have come to light, we have spent many hours over the past month determining what is the best possible way forward. We have spoken to our legal counsel and gathered information about what options would quickly and effectively address our concerns in this matter. According to the best information we have available, no basis currently exists for an investigation by the ethics committee, although other investigative options may be available.
There is no timetable in place for the completion of the criminal investigations. The information that has been made available in the media undermines the confidence our constituents should have in their legislature. The ongoing investigations significantly impair the ability of Representative Miller to effectively represent the constituents of House District 40.
With these concerns in mind I have asked Representative Miller to resign his seat as a Representative in the Utah State House.
We thank you for your time today, and for your continued involvement in the progress of our great state.
Here's the full statement of Rep. Justin Miller:
It is unfortunate that despite an ongoing investigation, the House Democrats have rushed to judgement and called for my resignation. I take their position on this matter very seriously and will be taking the next couple of days to discuss with family the next actions to take.
I have been in regular communication with Rep. King and have shared with him much of the information that corroborates my accounting of events that I am currently constrained from sharing with the public due to the ongoing investigation. I have even gone so far as to explicitly encourage Rep. King to make a legislative inquiry into these claims against me, as I, understandably, am VERY anxious to have the results of such an inquiry part of the public record.
I understand the pressure that is being put on the State Party Leadership to take some form of action on the claims made by Mayor McAdams, but instead of my resignation I encourage them to make a legislative inquiry about my actions and further, to call for an investigation of my whistle-blower claims to the proper authorities at Davis County.
The public deserves to know the results of the ongoing investigation into the charges against me. They also have a right to know that now-fired Chief Burbank of SLC, who has held onto my investigation for 8 months without once contacting me, is the partner of Maura Carabello, the owner of Exoro who is identified in my whistle blower claim. By keeping my ability to speak in my defense constrained until their investigation is complete, seems very advantageous to former police chief’s partner. I encourage Mayor Becker, now with better police leadership, to call for a speedy end to my investigation a further ethics investigation into the role Chief Burbank played in the delay and lack of communication with me on the investigation to this point.
These are courageous actions the Dem Party Leadership should be taking, not calling for the resignation of a colleague that they know to be an effective legislator for his constituents. I hope real leadership on this issue wins out over the posturing and pressures of political bickering that does nothing for the people who elected us.
Here's the full statement of the Utah Democratic Party:
The Utah House Democrats made it clear today that those Democrats who serve in our state legislature should act in accordance with the values and standards of the people they serve. Utah Democrats also believe our public officials should be held to the highest ethical standards. That is the only way to maintain public trust.
“With regard to Representative Justin Miller, we urge him, if he has information to exonerate himself, to release the information to the public as soon as possible. His constituents and the people of Utah deserve to know the reality of this situation. If he doesn’t have this information, we believe he should deal with these allegations as a private citizen.