Friday, March 12, 2010

Kevin Garn: Nudity, Extortion, and Confession - Does Any of This Really Matter?

Kevin Garn dropped a bombshell on the State Legislature last night with his confession of sins committed 25 years ago and the subsequent extortion that occurred in 2002 related to his conduct.  Here is his statement:

"Twenty five years ago I made a mistake that has now come back to haunt me. I was 28-yrs old and I foolishly went hot-tubbing with a young woman nearly half my age. Although we did not have any sexual contact, it was still clearly inappropriate -- and it was my fault.
One of the consequences of that decision was the negative impact it had on this young person's life. Years later, when I was running for Congress, she decided to bring this incident to the attention of the media. Shortly thereafter, my wife and I met with her, and at her demand, I paid her $150,000. While this payment felt like extortion, I also felt like I should take her word that the money would help her heal. She agreed to keep this 25-year-old incident confidential. Now that this issue is coming up again, it is apparent to me that this payment was also a mistake.

Today, she went to the press and reported all of these events. There will be a story. I expect to suffer public humiliation and embarrassment, but I also want you to know that I cannot allow one foolish mistake to continue to shadow my life. At this point, I would rather be open and honest about this than continue to live in fear. Some lessons are hard to learn. This is something I should have done back in 2002. But I was scared. I did not want to be publicly judged by one of my life's worst decisions.

I told my wife about this incident years ago, as well as my children. I may not deserve their forgiveness, but they have given it. My primary concern at this point is that my wife and the rest of my family know how much I love them. I am sorry for this incident. And I am sorry I ever responded to the financial demands.

I also wish to publicly apologize to this young lady for this incident. And I apologize to you, my colleagues, for any shame this brings to the Utah State Legislature. I have tried my best to serve my constituents in a way that brings honor to them and makes this great State better than the way I found it. I hope to continue to do that.

Thank you."

I take Mr. Garn's apology at face value.  He made a mistake.  He then made another mistake.  He is sorry for those mistakes.

I am a believer in redemption.  Given the length of time between his first misdeed and the present time, I believe that we can move on from that.  The extortion that occurred on the other hand is another matter.  As Mr. Garn admits, in 2002 he was scared and "did not want to be publicly judged" for his misbehavior. Hence his payment of money to keep this story quiet. 

This is where I take issue.  As a public servant, public scrutiny is warranted.  It is this very scrutiny that protects the public form electing those who are unworthy to serve.  Now, we may have our own definition of what "worthiness" is when serving in public office.  My opinion is that public service is an honor and that those who serve in such a capacity should live a life beyond reproach.  Issues of morality and faithfulness are of a particular concern to me because of the implications they have on the character and integrity of a person.  If a man will lie to his spouse, what will keep him from lying to the people he serves.

Mr. Garn's transgression though appears to be less of infidelity and more of obfuscation and misrepresentation.  Would he have been elected had the voters known then what they know now?  Likely not.  Would another noble candidate arisen at that time to serve the people of David County? Likely so.   What I am saying is that public servants are disposable.  In the event that one becomes unworthy to serve, there are many honorable and capable men available to fill his shoes.

I forgive Mr. Garn and wish he and his family the best. Mr. Garn's confession is honorable.  But, the most honorable thing for him to do now would be to step aside and open the door for a worthy candidate to represent his district. It's time to move on.    

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