Utah lieutenant governor says he will leave office

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said Monday he will leave office to return to the private sector so he can save money for retirement.

With his wife JoLynn at his side, Bell told reporters at the state Capitol that it was a difficult decision to leave the post but something he had been considering for some time.

“It really couldn’t have been a better job,” the 64-year-old Bell said. “It’s time for me to just move on to the next phase of my life.”

The Republican explained that the recession and troubled real estate market left him saddled with financial liabilities from his time as a real estate attorney.

“I’ve just come to a point where I need to do something about that,” he said.

The Utah lieutenant governor’s position pays $105,000 a year, plus benefits.

Bell intends to remain in the post until Gov. Gary Herbert names a replacement who is confirmed by the state Senate.

Herbert said Bell’s departure will leave a hole in his administration.

“I just have the greatest admiration for Greg,” Herbert said Monday afternoon. “So I wish him well in this new chapter of his life that he has chosen for himself.”

Herbert picked Bell for the job in 2009. Herbert had been lieutenant governor before becoming the state’s top executive when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

Bell was assistant majority whip in the state Senate at the time.

In the state Legislature, Bell was considered a moderate who was best known for pursuing ethics reforms and sponsoring an unsuccessful bill that would have extended some legal rights to gay couples.

He’s also served as a mayor and city councilman in Farmington.

As lieutenant governor, Bell was Herbert’s emissary to the Legislature, led efforts to bring the Winter Olympics back to Salt Lake City, and chaired numerous state committees, including one overseeing funding for homeless services.

Bell also oversaw state elections and financial disclosure reports of lobbyists and political candidates. His office is currently investigating allegations that Attorney General John Swallow failed to disclose some business interests on his campaign disclosure forms last year.

Swallow has said he’s confident he’ll be cleared in that investigation.

Earlier this year, Bell himself was under investigation by Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings and the FBI after the lieutenant governor was accused of interfering in a child custody case.

The investigation started after Utah Department of Human Services executive director Palmer DePaulis accused Bell of interfering with a child abuse investigation and undermining the agency that was handling the case.

Bell said he ordered an audit of the child welfare agency on behalf of a neighbor who complained of government mistreatment.

Rawlings announced in August that Bell had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bell said the investigation played no role is his decision to leave office, and his decisions along the way were made while consulting with attorneys.

Citing his 65th birthday next month, Bell said Monday he does not have adequate savings for retirement.

Bell acknowledged that many Utah residents do not make as much as he does as lieutenant governor but said his family’s financial needs require him to return to the private sector.

Bell said he doesn’t have a job or an offer lined up but would like to find work in public policy or business.

Herbert said he has a short list of replacements in mind and hopes to make an announcement by early October. The Utah Constitution requires that the lieutenant governor’s replacement be a member of the same party as the person leaving the office.

Ally Isom, Herbert’s deputy chief of staff, said the governor hopes to put a nominee before the state Senate in October in November

Jim Dabakis, a state Senator from Salt Lake City and chair of the Utah Democratic Party, said the party was grateful for Bell’s service.

“We are sad to lose one of the lone voices of reason and moderation in Utah’s state government, as well as an ally and champion in the fight for quality public education at a time when there is so much work still to do for our schools and our children,” Dabakis said in a statement.