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Legislature proposes amendment to have A.G. appointed, not elected

By Richard Piatt | Posted - May 15th, 2013 @ 8:59pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Allegations against John Swallow have prompted a response from the Utah Legislature Wednesday in proposing a bill to amend the Utah Constitution to have the attorney general appointed rather than elected.

Many Republicans in the committee hearing paused at the idea of concentrating more appointment powers to the governor, but others were receptive to the idea.

"As a policy matter, I'm not sure having an attorney general running around the state and asking people for large sums of money is the best policy for the state of Utah moving forward," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. "And obviously it's that policy that's brought some of the recent allegations forward that have been widely reported in the media."

Senators are hoping that the change in policy would discourage bribery or favors geared toward the state attorney general. John Swallow has denied incidents of bribery happened, in spite of multiple allegations from people who said money granted access to both Swallow and former attorney general Mark Shurtleff.

"A person can't call the attorney general and say, 'I voted for you, so I want this person prosecuted,' or, 'I voted for you, and I don't want this person prosecuted,' " Weiler said. "That's not the attorney general's role, to respond to public clamor."

Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis said that Attorney General Swallow is the reason behind the bill, and he also said he supports Weiler's bill.

"There are serious policy issues that I hope we will address, not on the periphery, but exactly what are the ethical standards that we're going to accept in our elected offices," Dabakis said.

Members of the attorney general's staff were at the meeting to oppose the idea, but they were not asked to address the committee. Weiler said he plans to move the bill forward and present it at the next legislative session.

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