Top state executive official resignations of 2013
By Greg Janetka
With the year winding down and end-of-the-year lists aplenty, we offer you a review of the year through the top state executive official resignations of 2013. From officials surrounded by scandal, to one appointed to the U.S. Senate and one simply seeking more money, the year was busy with top names leaving their posts early.
Nebraska Lt. Gov. makes a few phone calls
With a hastily put together news conference, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) announced the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy (R) on February 2, making Sheehy the first high-profile state executive to step down in 2013. Heineman said the resignation came after disclosures from a public records request, but failed to elaborate. That same day the Omaha World-Herald reported Sheehy made thousands of improper cell phone calls during the past four years on his state-issued cell phone to four women, none of whom his wife. The previous July, Sheehy's wife filed for divorce after 29 years, citing that the "marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken.”
Florida Lt. Gov. swept up in gambling probe
A little over a month after Sheehy resigned amid scandal, Florida's Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll (R) submitted her letter of resignation to Governor Rick Scott (R), who asked her to step down. Carroll had been named as a subject of interest in her affiliation with Allied Veterans of the Worlds, who were found to be operating illegal gambling companies. Shortly after, Scott shut down the Lieutenant Governor's office and has yet to name a replacement.
Carroll was not charged with any wrongdoing. She said she was paid $6000 a month to do public relations work for Allied Veterans and had no knowledge of the alleged gambling. Quickly landing on her feet, Global Digital Solutions announced April 24 that Carroll was joining the company as a senior advisor with the expectation that she would become President and Chief Operating Officer once a merger with Airtronic USA, Inc. was completed. The company's products include grenade launchers and machine guns.
Arkansas Treasurer finds money in a pie-box
First elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, Arkansas Treasurer Martha Ann Shoffner (D) was arrested in her home by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on charges of attempt and conspiracy to commit "extortion under color of official right" under the Hobbs Act. The arrest was made without a formal indictment and arose from an investigation into Shoffner's handling of state investments in her capacity as treasurer, as well as allegations she had broken state election laws governing campaign contributions. The federal investigation revealed that she had accepted $12,000 in cash payments from a broker who eventually managed a vast portion of the state's $3.3 billion investment portfolio. An affidavit filed the Monday following her arrest has Shoffner confirming it was wrong to accept the money, that was sometimes rolled up and hidden in a pie box- with the pie included. At the federal court hearing, held that Monday, Shoffner declined to enter a plea, and was released from Pulaski County Jail "on her own recognizance." News of Shoffner's charge and arrest led many state officials, including Gov. Mike Beebe, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb, to call for her to step down. Schoffner subsequently tendered her resignation to the governor, effective May 21.
On June 5, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced that a federal grand jury had indicted Shoffner on six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion, and seven counts of receipt of a bribe.
Massachusetts Lt. Gov. leaves to lead Chamber of Commerce
Becoming the third lieutenant governor to resign this year, Massachusetts' Tim Murray announced on May 22 that he would be stepping down on June 2 in order to lead the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. Murray's departure made him the first Massachusetts lieutenant governor to resign mid-term since John Kerry in 1985.
While Murray had been the subject of controversies, he said his decision had nothing to do with them, calling the move "a right fit and a right decision." Murray's political troubles began in November 2011 with an automobile accident involving a state vehicle and questions surrounding his ties to an ex-housing director. He had been expected by many to seek the governor's seat after Deval Patrick (D) leaves office in 2015. However, Murray put those rumors to rest earlier in 2013.
As the Massachusetts Constitution does not provide a way to fill a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor, the post will remain vacant until a new officeholder is elected on November 4, 2014.
New Jersey Attorney General goes to Washington
Four days after U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg's death, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) named then-Attorney General Jeff Chiesa as a temporary replacement. Based on an analysis of bill sponsorship by GovTrack, Lautenberg was a "far-left Democratic leader." Resigning the AG's office on June 10, Chisea, a self-described "conservative Republican," would fill the seat until a special election in October. The choice came as a surprise to many, most of whom expected former attorney general David Samson would get the nod. Last month Chiesa returned to his old law firm, Wolff & Samson.
Florida Education Commissioner found cheating
One of the biggest upsets in 2012 state executive elections came in Indiana, when then-incumbent Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett (R) was defeated by liberal challenger Glenda Ritz. Bennett didn't need to sit around for long contemplating his future - just over a month after his electoral defeat he was named the new Florida Commissioner of Education by the state Board of Education.
A February 2013 article in Governing named Bennett as one of the top state Republican officials to watch in 2013. Six months later, he resigned from public office. following an Associated Press story showing that while he was still Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bennett tampered with a charter school's grading system in order to protect his relationship with a powerful Republican campaign donor. Denying all reports of ethical or political misconduct, Bennett explained in a statement after stepping down, "I don't believe it would be fair to be distracted" to continue serving as commissioner amid the controversy.
Utah Lt. Gov. on the lookout for more cash money
On September 16, Utah's Gregory Bell announced that he would be resigning his position as lieutenant governor to return to the private sector in order to be able to save money for retirement. Regarding the decision, 64-year-old Bell stated, “It really couldn’t have been a better job. It’s time for me to just move on to the next phase of my life.” Bell's decision to step down brought the total number of lieutenant governor resignations this year to four.
While the Utah Lieutenant Governor earns $105,000 a year plus benefits, Bell, a former real estate attorney, said the recession and difficult real estate market left him with numerous financial liabilities. Bell remained in the position until a replacement was named by Gov. Gary Herbert and confirmed by the state Senate. Days after leaving the office it was reported that Bell had accepted a job as President of the Utah Hospital Association.
Utah Attorney General finally steps down, sigh of relief from his own party
Beset by criminal allegations since he took office in January, Utah Attorney General John Swallow (R) announced his resignation effective December 3. Swallow has continually proclaimed his innocence on all charges. The trouble for the state's top lawman began on January 11 of this year when businessman Jeremy Johnson accused Swallow of being involved in a plan to bribe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a federal investigation into Johnson's Internet marketing company disappear. However, that was just the beginning.
On January 23, left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Utah filed an unprofessional conduct complaint with the Utah State Bar and a petition with the lieutenant governor's office on March 7 alleging election law violations. That was followed by another ethics complaint filed with the state bar on May 3, this time by a former state consumer protection director. Six days later jailed businessman Marc Jenson accused Swallow, along with predecessor Mark Shurtleff, of seeking bribes.
With all of the allegations circulating around him, numerous officials, including Gov. Herbert, asked Swallow to resign, but the attorney general staunchly refused. Numerous investigations were opened, including ones by the U.S. Attorney's Office (later taken over by the U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section) and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings. On July 2 the Utah House of Representatives discussed the possibility of impeachment and created a committee to investigate Swallow.
Swallow has not been officially charged with any wrongdoing. Although he denies money had anything to do with the timing, by waiting until December to leave office Swallow became eligible for an annual yearly pension of approximately $12,000.
- New York Times, "Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska Resigns," November 2, 2013
- Omaha.com, "Ex-Lt. Gov. Sheehy repays $500 for using state-owned cellphone to call women," May 8, 2013
- Tia Mitchell, Miami Herald, "Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigns from post," March 13, 2013
- Huffington Post, "Jennifer Carroll Resignation Addressed By Ex-Florida Lieutenant Governor," April 4, 2013
- PR Newswire, "Former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll Joins Global Digital Solutions, Inc., as Senior Advisor," April 24, 2013
- Justice.gov, "9-131.000 THE HOBBS ACT—18 U.S.C. § 1951," May 20, 2013
- The Washington Post, "Arkansas state treasurer resigns amid charges she took cash payments from broker," May 21, 2013
- THV11.com, "Update: Ark. treasurer accused of taking cash from broker," May 20, 2013
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- FBI, "Former Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Ann Shoffner Indicted on Federal Charges of Extortion and Receipt of Bribes," June 5, 2013
- Boston.com, "Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray to resign, says controversies had nothing to do with his decision," May 22, 2013
- The Wall Street Journal, "Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Resigns," February 2, 2013
- Boston Herald, "Lt. Gov. Tim Murray says resignation about ‘opportunity'," May 22, 2013
- GovTrack, "Frank Lautenberg," accessed March 3, 2012
- Washington Post, "Christie to appoint Jeff Chiesa to Senate," June 6, 2013
- North Jersey.com, "New Jersey's interim senator Jeffrey Chiesa rejoins law firm," November 26, 2013
- Tampa Bay Times, "Former Indiana superintendent is Florida's new education commissioner," December 12, 2012
- Governing, "State Republican Officials to Watch in 2013," February 6, 2013
- Tallahassee.com, "Update: Education Commissioner Bennett's resignation effective immediately," August 1, 2013
- Tampa Bay Times, "Former Indiana superintendent is Florida's new education commissioner," December 12, 2012
- Tallahassee.com, "New Fla. education commissioner followed Bush lead," January 14, 2013
- IndyStar, "Former schools chief Tony Bennett finds new work," December 13, 2013
- HJNews, "Utah Lt. Gov. to resign, cites financial needs," September 16, 2013
- ‘'Deseret News,’’ “Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell stepping down,” September 16, 2013
- Salt Lake Tribune, "Former Lt. Gov. Bell to lead Utah Hospital Association," October 18, 2013
- Salt Lake Tribune, "Swallow resigns, proclaiming innocence, says toll on family and office too great," November 21, 2013
- Salt Lake Tribune, "GOP plans to pick Swallow successor; Dems say not so fast," November 21, 2013
- Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah A.G.’s office eager to get back to normal," November 21, 2013
- SFGate, "Lawyer: No charges for Utah AG in bribery probe," September 12, 2013
- Deseret News, "2013 John Swallow timeline," November 21, 2013
- KSL, "Attorney General John Swallow resigns," November 21, 2013
- KUTV, "Swallow Could Earn $12,000/Yr by Delaying Resignation ," November 26, 2013