After a month of near silence on the issue, the Utah House Democrats Monday called for the immediate resignation of Rep. Justin Miller.
Miller (D-Salt Lake City) is accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the campaign account of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) says he decided to call for Miller's resignation after considering the evidence available to him and speaking with Miller.
"The information that has been made available in the media undermines the confidence our constituents should have in their legislature," said King. "The ongoing investigations significantly impair the ability of Representative Miller to effectively represent the constituents of House District 40."
King says the investigation has proved to be a distraction to getting business done on Capitol Hill. Miller did not show up for the monthly interim meetings in May and is not expected to attend the June meetings later this week.
For his part, Miller sounds like he is not ready to resign. King says he asked Miller to step down last week. In a statement released on Monday, Miller said:
"The public deserves to know the results of the ongoing investigation into the charges against me…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."
King says until charges are filed against Miller, which is not a certainty, there's no basis for an ethics complaint against Miller as the misconduct he's accused of happened before he took office. However, if criminal charges are filed, King expects ethics charges to follow in short order.
"It might change the game about Rep. Miller's feelings about whether he would want to stay in office," said King. "We don't know when that's going to happen. This process doesn't show any sign of moving forward, so we think this is the best way to deal with this."
Some Democrats are already lining up to replace Miller if he steps down or challenge him in 2016. That list includes former Rep. Lynn Hemingway who stepped down the District 40 seat following the
2014 session. Chris Stout, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Utah State Treasurer in 2012, has also announced his intention to challenge or replace Miller.
King did hint at one extreme, and probably unlikely, course of action that lawmakers could eventually take…expulsion. If 2/3 of the members of the House decide that Miller is not fit to serve, he could be stripped of his membership.
"It would be a gigantic distraction," said King. "If people feel this casts a pall over the House and we need to do more to examine Rep. Miller's qualifications to sit in the House, that's an option."