SALT LAKE CITY — A bill got on a highly unusual fast track in the final hours of the Legislative session because of its complaint against the attorney general.
Senate bill 289 would according to the bill, "appoint special counsel to investigate and determine whether a violation occurred." in a case where the Attorney general has a conflict of interest in the case of a citizen complaint.
Such a situation came up two weeks ago, when the citizen's group Alliance for a Better UTAH filed a petition alleging campaign finance reporting fraud against Attorney General John Swallow.
It is one of three bills lawmakers passed this year that has a direct tie to Swallow's legal troubles.
Senate Bill 289 passed in hours, something no one can
The Lt. Governor came to us, in the last week of the session and said, please fix this for me, please make it so I don't have to deal with this. We said, 'it makes complete sense'.
–Rep. Becky Lockhart
"The Lt. Governor came to us, in the last week of the session and said, please fix this for me, please make it so I don't have to deal with this," said Rep. Becky Lockhart. "We said, ‘it makes complete sense'."
The bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in a matter of hours--a fast track no one can recall occurring with any bill in Utah in recent memory.
"I think it shows the legislature views the whole attorney general episode with great reservation, great concern," said David Irvine from Utahns for Ethical Government.
Irvine, who is spearheading the complaint, says the legislature's fast action affirms his complaint and suggests lawmakers are not granting Swallow any life lines out of potential trouble.
"I think it says there has been a real loss of confidence and trust in the ability of Mr. Swallow to effectively perform in that position," Irvine said.
I think it says there has been a real loss of confidence and trust in the ability of Mr. Swallow to effectively perform in that position.
Swallow is also under federal investigation for his relationship with Jeremy Johnson, facing multiple charges for wire fraud.
Then deputy attorney general Swallow says he acted as a 'consultant' on the side. That situation sparked Senate Bill 83, which prevents office holders from 'moonlighting' while on the job. Senator Todd Weiler sponsored the bill.
"What this really does is it brings parity to career service employees and the political appointees, in the executive branch. There's been basically a double standard," Weiler said. "So I ended that."
Also passed this year, and stemming from Swallow's situation: Senate Bill 86, which would create an Independent Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
Utahns for Ethical Government urged the attorney general to take a leave of absence, pending the outcome of the Department of Justice investigation.
There has been no comment from Swallow on the matter, but in the past his spokesman has made it clear Swallow has no intention of stepping down.