ST. GEORGE – In an overwhelming 69-3 affirmative vote after nearly two hours of debate Wednesday, the Utah House of Representatives voted to create a special committee to investigate Attorney General John Swallow.
Swallow has been accused of wrongdoing on several fronts, originating with accusations that he helped orchestrate bribery of U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to eliminate action by the Federal Trade Connection against Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson.
In previous statements to the press, Swallow has said he welcomes the investigations — which span from county and state to federal levels — he has nothing to hide and is confident it will clear up inaccuracies about the alleged list of misconducts; but Wednesday, Swallow was concerned about aspects of the scope of the investigation proposed by members of the House. The bill was introduced and amended several times before passing.
During the House debate Wednesday, Swallow appeared on KSL Radio’s “Doug Wright Show” and voiced concerns regarding the scope of the investigation and its timeline.
Swallow said that the Utah Supreme Court ruled that any “removal of an elected official must relate to the activities that he did under color of his authority in his office,” arguing that the legislature should only focus on the timeline since he became Attorney General.
Initial provisions within the proposed resolution suggested that the committee may also look into allegations of misconduct outside of the time frame Swallow served as attorney general and as far back as 1990, when Swallow was admitted to the Utah State Bar.
However, Wednesday, the scope of the special committee investigation, as authorized by the House Rules Resolution was limited to alleged misconduct which occurred during his service as deputy attorney general, candidate for attorney general, and attorney general, with special provisions allowing further investigation on certain conditions.
View the complete text of the resolution here: House Rules Resolution Forming Special Investigative Committee.
The large scope of the Investigation
The resolution states that the Special Investigative Committee shall investigate misconduct of the Attorney General, and investigate matters related to the current Attorney General that arise as part of the investigation.
The smaller scope of the Investigation
The special committee may also investigate allegations of misconduct against Swallow which occurred while he served as deputy attorney general, was a candidate for attorney general, and has served as attorney general.
The committee may investigate allegations of misconduct that occurred before Swallow became deputy attorney if the allegations of misconduct relate to his fitness to serve as attorney general and the committee approves the further investigation by a majority vote.
The House will have the support of resources from the Legislative Research and General Counsel, and the House may contract for outside services to assist in the staffing of the Special Investigative Committee.
The Committee Members
Currently a point of contention between the House parties is how many Republicans and Democrats to appoint to the special committee.
The special committee will consist of nine members of the House as appointed by the Speaker, and the GOP-controlled House also intends to hire an outside investigator and outside legal counsel which is authorized by the resolution.
Republican House Speaker Becky Lockhart said she intends to appoint committee members by July 17.
“Our duty is to make sure that the public trust is maintained,” Lockhart said. “And when we believe that there is damage to the public trust, it is our responsibility to investigate and then potentially move it forward in a constitutional manner.”
Costs of the Investigation
The investigation could cost up to $3 million according to estimations made by legislative fiscal analysts. The House will receive periodic accountings detailing the ongoing costs incurred in the investigation.
The House committee will issue a fact-finding report at the end of its work and by the terms of the resolution it has a year and a half to complete its job given a sunset clause in the resolution repealing the rule on December 31, 2014.
The final report and minority report, if any, shall present the information and evidence gathered by the special investigative committee, and may not include specific recommendations for actions, except for recommendations for legislation, if any.
From Southern Utah, Reps. Jon Stanard, Brad Last, John R. Westwood, Michael E. Noel, V. Lowry Snow, and Don Ipson all voted yea.
From the whole state, only Reps. Ken Ivory, Jim Nielson, and Curtis Oda voted Nay and either absent or not having voted were Kraig Powell, Daniel McCay, and Rebecca Chavez-Houck.
Provisions that failed
Multiple revisions to the initial proposition included on the floor failed before the final resolution was passed and enrolled Wednesday.
Among the amendments which failed were, amendments 7 and 18 which stated that the chair be a nonvoting member of the committee and that no more than 5 people of the same political party were to be on the committee, and that the word “majority” be “two-thirds.”
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