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Head of Swallow investigation may have conflict-of-interest in case

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Jul. 18, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The legislative committee investigating Utah Attorney General John Swallow is only one-day old and already there's concern over one of its leaders.

From coordinating meetings and witnesses, this committee's investigation is like nothing part-time legislators have seen before. But one item is already begging for clarity: A tie between the law firm of the investigative committee's chairman, Lowry Snow, and a potential witness of the Swallow case.

The man in charge of the committee may have ties to Jeremy Johnson, a former St. George business man accused of fraud. Snow confirms his law firm, Snow Jensen and Reece, does represent one of the many companies previously owned by Johnson, but noted that a law partner did the work in question.

Johnson is the man who originally brought up questions about Swallow, and one of the many potential witnesses Snow's investigative committee will likely call on as it examines Swallow's past.

Snow said he will meet with House Speaker Becky Lockhart about the matter. Still, he said there isn't anything that would impede his service on the committee.

"I don't think that it will affect my ability to proceed. But I want, I'm very interested in seeing the committee proceed in a clear and forthright manner," Snow said.

The head of Utah's Democratic party said this is a conflict of interest.

"I think this is a major breach. And I just don't see how he can continue to serve as chair," Democratic Party Leader Jim Dabakis said.

In the big picture, political science professor Matthew Burbank said this question illustrates the high-stakes, high-risk endeavor the Utah Legislature is undertaking.

"It's really a gamble all around, because you could set up a process that doesn't really generate the kinds of results you would have like to have seen," he said.

Members of House leadership did not return phone calls for comment Thursday.

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