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Garn's resignation brings up question of ethics in politics



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SALT LAKE CITY -- People are still weighing in on a lawmaker's decision to step down from office. Rep. Kevin Garn resigned after admitting he paid a woman to keep quiet about a nude hot-tubbing incident.

He said it happened decades ago when the woman was just 15. This story certainly has brought up many questions, especially about ethics.

April Brown says, "It needed to happen. I think he did the right thing by resigning. I think it was a long time ago, but it came up."

Many people are saying that this brings up the basic fact that people in elected positions are held to a higher standard, even when the incident in question happened many years ago.

First it was Sen. Sheldon Killpack, now Rep. Garn. Both Utah legislative leaders resigned over personal problems in the past two months. Dan Jones, a professor at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, says they had no other choice.

"They know the impact that it's had, but they too hope that people will forgive," Jones says.

Garn stepped down Saturday, just days after admitting he paid a woman $150,000 to keep quiet about a nude hot-tubbing incident. It happened when the woman was a teenager.

Just before the legislative session began in January, Killpack gave up his seat because he was arrested for driving under the influence. Jones believes these events will affect what goes on behind closed doors.

"It really makes legislators and people in government think of ethics," Jones says.

Constituents are thinking the same thing. When it comes to Garn, one woman said she just doesn't trust him and that he should stay out of politics.

"I think it's completely wrong. Like you said, it's a trust thing. I don't think he belongs anywhere in politics right now," Brown said.

Jones says it's unlikely Garn, or Killpack for that matter, will re-emerge in politics. He says that would be a hard sell.

"There have been many incidents and some have been able to make a comeback, but most of them go on with their lives and try other things," Jones says.

In this election year, Jones believes the scandal will prevent some people from running, because Garn is proof that if you have a past, it will most likely come out.

Resident Roger Heimberger said, "I think if you're going to be in the public eye like that, you really have to step up and be ethically right all the time."

Friday is the filing deadline for candidates interested in filing for Garn's seat. Republican delegates in Garn's district will meet to choose someone who will serve in his place until the November election.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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Nicole Gonzales

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