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SALT LAKE CITY — Responses to the state's request for special counsel to investigate election law violations alleged against Utah Attorney General John Swallow were underwhelming.
Only two law firms submitted bids by the Wednesday deadline, which prompted the state Division of Purchasing to extend the request for proposals another two weeks.
"Obviously, it was less than what we had hoped for or thought we would get," said Mark Thomas, chief deputy lieutenant governor and state elections director.
Thomas speculated that attorneys shied away due to potential conflicts of interest with the attorney general's office.
The Alliance for a Better Utah filed a complaint against Swallow in January, alleging 12 violations of state election law. The elections office dismissed nine counts but said three deserve further investigation.
Two of those counts allege Swallow failed to disclose that he was an owner or manager of a consulting firm called P Solutions and a family trust named SSV Management, and that he received $8,500 from P Solutions through another firm, RMR Consulting. The third alleges he made false and misleading statements about his financial condition on campaign disclosure forms.
Swallow's state planning attorney formed P Solutions as a subsidiary of a blind family trust and limited liability company, SSV Management, he had set up for Swallow's family, according to his response to the elections complaint.
Swallow never received income or payment for services from P Solutions, nor was he compensated directly by RMR, according to the response. Disbursements from P Solutions were made to Swallow's wife, Suzanne.
This is the lieutenant governor's office first experience with appointing special counsel. State lawmakers rushed to change a law on the last day of the legislative session this year that required alleged election code violations to be referred to the attorney general for investigation. The revision allows the lieutenant governor's office to appoint special counsel.
Thomas said he expects a three-person panel, that may include himself and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, to review and score the proposals and select the law firm or attorney. The purchasing division, which oversees bids for state contracts, will also give the panel a score based on the cost of each bid but not provide the actual dollar amount, he said.
The contract would be good for up to two years, but Thomas said he hopes it would not take that long to complete the investigation.
Swallow faces the possibility of being removed from office if he is found in violation of state elections law. His attorneys, however, dispute that, arguing the Utah Constitution provides only for removal through impeachment conducted by the Legislature.
GOP House members are scheduled to discuss the impeachment process in a June 19 caucus meeting.