Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis said Tuesday that he could not disclose or discuss in public his association with the land developer who is buying the St. George airport before the bids were opened, even though his private law firm is associated with that developer and St. George sought state aid in the deal.How many fingers does Speaker Curtis have in how many pies? Let's assume for a minute that this was all on the up-and-up...it still has the appearance of impropriety. It is nice that we have laws requiring some conflict of interest disclosure, but it doesn't force legislators not to be able to act when they have a conflict (like say a nuclear plant owner/legislator pushing for the state to use more nuclear power).
On Monday, St. George officials announced that Anderson Development was the top bidder at $44 million to buy the old airport, which sits atop a bluff between St. George, Santa Clara and Bloomington in Washington County. Because of its beautiful location, the old airport is some of the most prime residential development land in southern Utah.
Curtis' written conflict of interest form filed with the Utah House lists his law firm and Anderson Development as one of its major clients. So the connection with Curtis and Anderson is well-known. What was not known at the time that legislative GOP leaders were considering whether the state would buy the old airport or not was that Anderson Development was one of the private bidders on the airport.
Moreover, if any scandal were to convince Speaker Curtis not to run for reelection this year, he could pocket the $333,000 in donations he collected in 2007 (who knows how much he will get after the legislature is out of session) and buy himself a new house, or a new boat, or some land. And I am not the only one that says there needs to be a clean up on Utah's Capitol Hill.
From Friday's Tribune editorial:
If anyone in Utah still believes that there's nothing rotten in the state of Utah's legislative branch, then they haven't been paying attention for a long, long time. Perhaps they'd rather hold to the belief that their lawmakers are as ethical and honorable as they keep claiming they are.How many more cozy deals do people like Curtis's friends "happen" to make before something is done?
Well, many of them aren't, folks, and we take no pleasure in saying so.
But the stench of corruption around the Capitol from all the self-dealing, bullying, power-grabbing, hate-mongering, lavish lobbying and slavish payback, is strong enough to make the eyes smart and the nostrils burn.
The U.S. Congress now waits for federal prosecutors to indict their members before their "Ethics Committee" starts to investigate. Does the Attorney General need to start the same here? Oh wait, this is the same guy that defends payday lenders after going on a free golf trip to the Bahamas in the dead of winter paid for by payday lenders' lobbying association. Nevermind.