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Updated: 9:37 AM- Utah Rep. Mark Walker resigned Sunday, on the eve of an ethics investigation into whether he offered his opponent in the state treasurer's race a bribe to drop his bid for the office, but insisted he did nothing wrong.
Rather, Walker wrote in a letter to House Speaker Greg Curtis delivered Sunday evening, "I cannot, in good conscience, continue to put my family through the attacks and turmoil" resulting from his bid for treasurer.
The eight-member House Ethics Committee was scheduled to convene this morning for the first time in a decade to look into allegations that Walker offered deputy treasurer Richard Ellis the opportunity to keep his job with a hefty raise if he would quit the race.
But after Walker submitted his resignation, effective immediately, to the speaker last night, the panel determined it no longer had jurisdiction over the matter and the meeting was not held.
"It's just taken on such a political bent and he's very much in the crossfire between these factions in the Legislature and that battle between these various factions is about more than Mark Walker," said Walker's attorney, James Bradshaw. "And it appeared that rather than a search for the truth of what happened this political process had become about winning and advancing political agendas."
Ellis asked Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who is the state's top elections official, to investigate. When Herbert declined to act on the complaint until after the primary election, saying it could influence the outcome of the election, Ellis took his complaint to the Utah Supreme Court and the attorney general.
After polls closed in last month's Republican primary, which Walker lost handily, Herbert forwarded the complaint to the attorney general, and two county attorneys have been appointed to investigate whether the state's bribery laws were violated.
"By resigning and not participating in the pending ethics proceeding, I am not in any sense conceding unethical or illegal conduct. Rather I must resign because I find myself in the crossfire of a political battle that seems to have an intensity completely unrelated to me or anything I have done," Walker wrote in his letter. "I choose to not participate further because the toll on my family and me is just too great."
Walker said he would cooperate with the county attorneys' investigation. "I believe that when all the facts are presented they will show that, although I may have made some mistakes in judgment, I have done nothing which would warrant ethical sanctions or a criminal charge."
Walker, 32, is the father of four, with a fifth child expected soon. He left his job at Zions Bank in March to campaign for the treasurer's seat.
Under the rules for replacing a representative, the Salt Lake County Republican Party will submit a name to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who will select a replacement to fill out Walker's term.
Walker won his House seat by just 18 votes over Laura Black in 2006. This year, Black is facing Republican Brian Monsen in the toss-up district.
Ethics complaints have come to the ethics committee just three times in the past 22 years. Twice the lawmakers were exonerated and in the third case, a House member resigned after it became clear she would be disciplined for a shoplifting conviction.
The ethics complaint against Walker was signed by five House members, including two Republican members, a move that has caused a major rift in the GOP ranks.