Gov. Gary Herbert says it is unethical for the attorney general to represent both him and the Legislature when the two are in conflict, as they are currently on whether Herbert overstepped his authority in setting rules for the 3rd Congressional District special election.
So he said Thursday that he actually applauds legislative leaders for deciding to sue over the matter — seeking to force release of a secret attorney general’s opinion about the election — so it may give “certainty and clarification of the law.”
“It doesn’t mean we’re not working well together. It means there’s an honest difference of opinion,” the governor said during his monthly news conference on KUED-TV.
“I don’t care what’s in the opinion. It’s just an opinion. It may be good. It may not be good” Herbert said, adding that no one outside the attorney general’s office knows what it says, and which side it favors.
“What we are concerned about is under our constitution, the attorney general is required to be my legal counsel,” Herbert said, adding he consulted with the office as he planned the procedures and timelines for the election to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz because the law was silent on them. Legislators wanted him to call a special session so they could enact rules.
Another decades-old law requires the attorney general, as part of his regular duties, to prepare and provide written legal opinions requested by the Legislature. Lawmakers did just that on the election question, but Attorney General Sean Reyes chose not to release the opinion after the governor’s office raised questions about conflict of interest, and the Utah State Bar said a 50-50 chance exists that release might violate ethics rules.