SALT LAKE CITY -- Legislative leaders rushed to the defense of Lt. Gov. Greg Bell on Friday, at the same time a key Senate leader said he is running legislation to create an ethics commission to deal with complaints involving the executive branch of state government.
Bell is the subject of a Davis County investigation into allegations that he abused his power in a child abuse case involving a neighbor.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said he will push legislation to create an ethics commission to oversee the executive branch and deal with complaints, similar to that leveled against Bell.
He initiated that legislation the same day he was apprised of a probe into the conduct of Attorney General John Swallow.
He said he expected to see a draft of the bill Friday, which means it could be ready to go through the legislative process next week.
Lawmakers were effusive in their praise of Bell, a former state senator.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, who replaced Bell in the Senate, used a transportation object to describe the lieutenant governor.
"I believe Greg Bell is so straight, you could use him for a template to stripe the freeway. As far as his character, he has been very straightforward and honorable."
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, did not comment on specifics of the investigation but went out of his way to point out the charges against Swallow are significantly different than the allegations against Bell.
"A neighbor reached out to him. There was no money involved, no financial incentive. DCFS is in a very difficult situation. I'm not here to second-guess, but I have been contacted by people who think DCFS and other government agencies have overstepped their bounds," Weiler said.
That support reached across the aisle as well.
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, worried about any rush to judgment.
"I served with the lieutenant governor. I can't prejudge anyone. It's too easy, and it's not fair. I don't know enough. I think it's a fairness issue and things will unfold," she said.
Valentine, considered one of the Senate's most knowledgeable statesmen, said an independent commission is already in place for ethical review of legislators and state employees and he thinks the group would fill a need in dealing with the executive branch.