Governor calls Special Legislative Session to equip investigation of AG Swallow

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert has called a special session of the Utah Legislature to ensure the new Special Investigative Committee that will be looking into Attorney General John Swallow has all the tools needed to conduct a fair and thorough investigation surrounding the many allegations against him. The special session will be held Wednesday and all members of the Special Investigative Committee will be announced; additionally, House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart has asked the Governor to include two items in matters to be addressed at the special session.

Recap

Allegations against the attorney general include bribery, withholding information, special consideration to campaign donors, and more, all of which has made him the subject of local, state, and federal investigations leading up to the unprecedented House Resolution, H.R. 9001, on July 3 which authorized the Special Investigative Committee.

Special session

The special session Wednesday is the first special session of the Legislature since the closing of the general session this year, it follows the July 3 House session in which the resolution was made for the Special Investigative Committee.

Article VII, Section 6, of the Utah Constitution authorizes the governor to call a special session of the Legislature; these sessions occur intermittently at the behest of the governor to deal with specific issues or topics.

The scope of the special session

Two items will be addressed in Wednesday’s session. In an email to the House July 12, Lockhart wrote:

First, technical changes — specifically ensuring that subpoena powers and offers of immunity work hand-in-hand. There is also a minor word change to ensure we can use special counsel from outside the state if we so choose. Those changes are easily addressed.

The second change is to address open meetings and records access. The committee needs certain records and open meetings exemptions to properly conduct interviews and gather information. These powers are essentially the same as afforded any investigation into sensitive matters. Remember, we have never created such a committee and therefore the statutes have not included references to a Legislative Investigative Committee.

Bills in the special session

According to Lockhart, Majority Leader Brad Dee will be the primary sponsor of two bills introducing the changes mentioned. They are: 

Practicing Law without a License Amendments for the first special session. This bill creates an exception to existing law prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law. It allows one to practice law without a license under authority of court rule in certain circumstances.

The Legislative Investigative Committee Amendments for the first special session. This bill defines terms of the investigation and describes the circumstances where the investigative committee may hold closed meetings, designates where records go, grants authority for subpoenas to the chair of the investigative committee, grants the legislative body to administer an oath, take evidence and gather testimony, discusses immunity for witnesses; and it makes technical changes to certain words and phrases to better suit the needs of the investigative committee.

Both bills are only to take effect if signed by the governor per Article VIII, Section 8, of the Utah Constitution, and by their terms will then be effective immediately.

“Progress on the committee has already begun,” Lockhart wrote to the House. “Legislative staff has issued the RFP (request for proposal) for Special Counsel, and we expect to have a person hired by Aug. 6. At that point, we will release an additional RFP for special investigators.”

Lockhart said she is sensitive to what the people of Utah want.

“The people of Utah want answers and information,” Lockhart said. “We are meeting that need. But we must do it the right way, so that everyone can have confidence in the outcome — whatever that may be.”

The members of the investigative committee will be announced on July 17. Special Counsel is expected to be designated by Aug. 6.

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Email: sisaacson@stgnews.com

Twitter: @sarahisaacson1

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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