SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The new chair of a legislative committee investigating Utah Attorney General John Swallow has a possible conflict of interest that could cause him to step aside.
Republican Rep. Lowry Snow, an attorney from St. George, once represented the Utah businessman who accused the attorney general of bribing the U.S. Senate majority leader.
Snow's firm also represents companies on the periphery of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against the businessman Jeremy Johnson. Snow said the companies are not one of Johnson's companies, but the FTC had attempted to freeze their assets in the lawsuit.
Snow doesn't think his legal work, which was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, will impact his ability to head the investigative committee but will step aside if legislative leaders feel otherwise, he said. He says he hopes to schedule a first meeting within 10 to 12 days.
He plans to meet early next week to discuss the issue with House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, who appointed Snow on Wednesday to lead the nine-member committee.
Lockhart did not respond to messages left Friday.
Snow noted that no witness list has been drawn up yet, so there's a potential for other members of the committee to have a conflict as well.
"I think one of the things that this committee will do early on is develop a procedure and protocol under law for recusing members that may have any involvement," Snow said Friday.
I think one of the things that this committee will do early on is develop a procedure and protocol under law for recusing members that may have any involvement.
The scope of the investigation and how often the committee will meet have not yet been determined, but Snow said his goal is to have the process as open as possible.
Swallow, a Republican, has seen his first seven months in office marked by allegations of misconduct.
He is the subject of federal and state investigations, but has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and says he's confident his name will be cleared.
Any findings or conclusions from the probes have yet to be released, and Republican lawmakers, fed up with the allegations, decided last month to launch their own probe.
Besides Snow, four other Republicans and four Democrats have been tapped for the committee, including the House leaders of Republicans and Democrats.
The committee will deliver a factual report to the House of Representatives but will not make a recommendation on what action, if any, should be taken against Swallow.
The controversy surrounding Swallow emerged shortly after he took office in January.
The FBI is investigating the allegations made by Johnson, who is also facing federal fraud charges related to his online business.
Another businessman who was convicted of fraud charges has accused Swallow and former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff of offering or suggesting protection from regulators in exchange for cash and spa vacations. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Swallow also is the subject of two complaints with the Utah State Bar. And the Lt. Governor's Office, which oversees elections, is bringing on outside attorneys to investigate campaign disclosure complaints against Swallow.
Swallow has continually denied any misdoings or violations over the past seven months. He maintains he has nothing to hide, and says all investigations will clear his name.
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