Maryann Martindale: In the Justin Miller scandal, does nuance matter?

Let’s just cut to the chase—Justin Miller should resign, now.

I get the nuance, really I do.

Maryann Martindale
by Maryann Martindale

Despite the wishful thinking of Utah Republicans, this is not the Democrats’ Swallow scandal.  There are some pretty significant differences between the John Swallow charges and the allegations against Miller. Swallow’s are directly related to his role as an elected official—he essentially hung a “For Sale” sign on the door of the Attorney General’s office, while Miller is accused of stealing money from a campaign he previously managed. Just to keep it interesting, there are also accusations from previous campaigns and an apparent shoplifting arrest. None of this occurred after his election as a state representative and it isn’t directly related to that position.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats should just look the other way. Despite it not directly relating to his elected position, the allegations make it ethically impossible for him to continue.

Embezzlement is unethical. Lying about it is unethical.

Last fall, Miller had a chance when first confronted by Salt Lake County Ben McAdams and Donald Dunn, a meeting that was wisely recorded by McAdams.

If Justin would have been forthcoming and acknowledged his mistakes things may have turned out very different.  If he would have made arrangements to repay the money, the entire business may never have come to light. And even if it did and he plied the right amount of contrition, he may have still prevailed in his election. We’ve certainly seen plenty of people elected who had far worse blemishes.

But he didn’t. He deflected, made excuses and lied about having evidence he clearly didn’t have and was probably hoping to fabricate. He didn’t stop there. He continued to deflect by attempting to drag McAdams and Dunn down with claims that were thoroughly investigated and found to be without merit.

Simply put—he didn’t own it and now it owns him.

For the last month, it appeared as though the Democrats were going to circle the wagons and just hope it would all blow over, a tactic it appears Miller himself is following since we’ve not seen hide nor hair of him since the story broke (except in Facebook photos while at DisneyWorld with a bunch of fellow friends and Democratic insiders).

Finally, today, the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference stating their belief that he should resign. It took 32 days since the news broke, but at least they’re saying it now.

If you aren’t trustworthy, you shouldn’t be entrusted with representing others. I have no doubt there are many unethical politicians. Politics is a weird confluence of money, power and enormous egos, all conspiring to lead you astray. But many (I believe far more) don’t take the bait—good men and women, on both sides of the aisle, who no doubt get the money, power and the ego boost, but also recognize the importance of their role and refuse to betray trust that has been placed in them.

Miller didn’t attend May interim day, he didn’t attend the state Democratic Convention last Saturday, and it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll show for June interim meetings this week. He’s clearly not representing his district.

I applaud the Democratic caucus for FINALLY saying in today’s press conference, what they should have said weeks ago. Let’s hope the next press conference includes Justin Miller and his resignation.

And next time, my fellow Democrats (and, unfortunately, there will probably be a next time), don’t wait a month to do the right thing.


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