By Jon Johnson
PHOENIX – Ignorance of the law is no excuse or defense – unless you happen to be a member of the Legislature it appears.
Former House Speaker and LD-14 Representative David Gowan will not face criminal charges for using more than $12,000 in taxpayer funds while traveling during his run for Congress last year. That decision came, in part, because Gowan was ignorant to the fact he was breaking the law, according to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
The investigation showed multiple instances in which a state vehicle was used for personal purposes but Brnovich said while the actions could be deemed unethical, they weren’t criminal because there wasn’t enough proof that Gowan committed the crimes with criminal intent and with the knowledge he was indeed breaking the law.
Gowan, who is a likely primary rival for the senate seat against LD-14 Rep. Drew John, R-Safford, in 2018, had already paid back the expenses prior to the Inquisition. LD-14 Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, has already agreed to swap spots with John and campaign together along with LD-14 Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton. Gowan and John have both filed paperwork to run for the position.
Gowan released a prepared statement regarding the issue and said that “mistakes were made but any errors were unintentional and that no laws were broken” and that there was no “nefarious intent, despite the cynicism that pervades some of the newspaper accounts.”
However, information from Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson who headed up the investigation showed that Gowan had scheduled numerous “official” activities that went well out of LD-14 but were in CD-1, which seat he hoped to capture. Gowan later bowed out of the race. Travel reimbursement claims also were sketchy, with the government not knowing what was in an official capacity and what was for his political campaign. Those reimbursement claims were submitted by a staffer, however, relinquishing Gowan from accountability, apparently.
At the time, Gowan defended his actions by saying his post as Speaker of the House justified his travel because he had to represent the whole state and not just his legislative district.