SALT LAKE CITY — Sean Reyes is trying to rebuild Davis County voters’ trust in the attorney general’s office.
Reyes, who is the incumbent candidate in the running for Utah Attorney General in the upcoming elections, outlined for the Clipper several of the changes he’s made to the office in the wake of the John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff scandals. Though he’s careful not to talk specifically about either of his predecessors, he said that it’s important that the public have faith in the attorney general’s office.
“Of all the offices, this is the one people should be able to rely on the most,” said Reyes. “We’re the ones prosecuting the bad guys.”
In order to restore that sense of trust, Reyes said that he restructured the attorney general’s internal ethics committee and is evaluating the internal affairs structure in the office. He felt that both were important to protect the kind of speaking out that brought the issues with Swallow and Shurtleff to light.
“I think whistleblowers have never enjoyed more protection than under my administration,” he said. “I never want them to feel like they don’t have an outlet.”
Along with Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, Reyes also abolished administrative subpoenas that allow police to access a person’s Internet history without talking to a judge.
“My predecessors used it all the time,” he said. “It makes law enforcement easier, but it doesn’t protect the liberties of the citizens.”
He also said he’s tried to be honest about the office’s previous mistakes. When he received a report about several things the attorney general’s office did wrong with the prosecution of Mark Jensen, who was tried and convicted before Reyes took office, he showed the report to the judge and offered to hold a new trial.
“If something needs to be rectified, we need to take care of that,” he said. “I would rather lose doing something the right way than win the wrong way.”
Though those losses sometimes come, Reyes doesn’t regret the fight. He said he’s disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to pass on the appeal rather than make a ruling, he admits that the non-decision ended Utah’s chances at fighting the dissolution of Amendment 3.
“Other states may have legal recourse, but we don’t,” he said. “There were issues addressed in our case that weren’t in other cases.”
Though some of Reyes opponents have said that appealing an “unconstitutional” law was an unnecessary drain on taxpayer resources, Reyes pointed out that the ban on gay marriage was a constitutional amendment that was voted into law by those same taxpayers.
“I do believe it’s the duty of the attorney general to stand up and defend state law, whether it’s politically expedient or not,” he said. “The attorney general has no checks and balances. If he can decide ‘This is my interpretation of the Constitution,’ and silence the voices of the people, I think that’s dangerous.”