Swallow 'blown away' by Utah House investigation

By Dennis Romboy and Richard Piatt | Posted - Aug 6th, 2013 @ 8:08pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — As a Utah House special investigative committee holds its first meeting Tuesday, the subject of its probe says he wonders how things got to this point.

"How in the world did I get in this perfect storm?" asked embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow. "I'm blown away that this is happening on my watch."

The first-term Republican reiterated his innocence in the face of multiple accusations made against him since he took office in January.

"I ask myself how did I get in this position. I have lived an honorable life," Swallow said Tuesday on KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show."

Swallow, a former House member, said he has "worries and concerns" about how the committee will conduct its investigation. He hopes that it's fair and doesn't become a political exercise. He also said he hopes it doesn't bump into other investigations and works quickly.

"My goodness, I want this over yesterday," he said.

Swallow's interview came about an hour before the House special investigative committee was to hold its first meeting at the Capitol. House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, appointed the bipartisan, nine-member panel to gather facts about the allegations against the attorney general, which could lead to impeachment proceedings.

The first-of-its-kind committee is expected Tuesday to get organized, review its investigative powers and discuss potential costs. The Legislature last month granted it authority to subpoena witnesses and offer limited immunity.

Legal counsel for the committee is scheduled to be chosen Friday. Ten out-of-state law firms remain in the running for the job. The committee also intends to hire investigators. Legislative attorneys estimate the panel's work could cost as much as $3 million.

Chairman Jim Dunnigan said that the even-handed fact-finding shouldn't be rushed during the investigation.

"We don't want to go down the path of conjecture or rumor," Dunnigan said. "That's our charge — to determine for the people of Utah what the facts are."

Maryann Martindale of the Alliance For a Better Utah said she just hopes for a resolution to the on-going John Swallow saga.

"Meantime, he stills holds office, and we don't know what he's doing," Martindale said. "He's being investigated every which way, and it continues to erode the public trust."

The special investigation committee will be the fifth investigation probing Attorney General John Swallow's alleged relationships and activities with people his office has prosecuted. The committee will have subpoena power, tapping into high priced law firms that may have to deal with side issues like lawsuits.

Swallow is under investigation at several levels of government.

The Department of Justice Public Integrity Section is investigating Swallow's relationship with indicted St. George online marketer Jeremy Johnson and imprisoned businessman Marc Sessions Jenson. Both claim improprieties before he took office this January.

"Why is the media and the Legislature giving so much credence to allegations of these types of people?" Swallow said.

In addition to the DOJ, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings are conducting a joint investigation into Swallow and his predecessor Mark Shurtleff.

The lieutenant governor's office hired the law firm Snell & Wilmer to look into whether Swallow broke state campaign finance laws. The first-term Republican also is the subject of two Utah State Bar complaints.

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Dennis Romboy
Richard Piatt

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