The Alliance for a Better UTAH has released an open letter to House Speaker Becky Lockhart following the dismissal of Rep. Lowry Snow as the Chair of the House Committee assigned to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Attorney General John Swallow. The letter asks Speaker Lockhart, in the interest of transparency and public trust, to provide a detailed account of the Committee’s selection and vetting process. This information is an important component in the effort to increase public confidence in the Committee’s investigative independence and findings. The letter can be found below the following statement (a PDF of the letter can be found here):
“The public lost an otherwise very qualified individual in Rep. Lowry Snow due to Speaker Lockhart’s apparent failure to fully vet the representatives she assigned to the Swallow committee, including Chairperson Snow. It is disheartening that the committee charged with investigating the Swallow scandal was, itself, immediately exposed to a scandal. That does little to rebuild the public trust in the process or in our elected officials, including Speaker Lockhart who would appear to have her sights set on the Governor’s office in 2016.
“A little more effort and transparency on the front end of the selection process might have meant that the public could have retained the strong leadership of Rep. Snow and the process itself would not have been cast under this shadow.
“We ask Speaker Lockhart to be open and transparent in answering these questions about the selection process, perhaps by responding through the opinion pages of one of our leading dailies, so that the public has the opportunity to better understand how the members of this committee were selected.”
The Honorable Rebecca D. Lockhart
Speaker, Utah House of Representatives
350 North State, Suite 350
P.O. Box 145030
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Dear Speaker Lockhart,
Though we are concerned about the redundancy of investigations and costs to Utah’s taxpayers, the Alliance for a Better UTAH is pleased to see the Utah Legislature participating in the myriad investigations into Attorney General Swallow’s actions. Utah deserves an Attorney General and an Attorney General’s office that is free of rumor and scandal, and Mr. Swallow deserves a full hearing regarding the accusations made against him.
Nevertheless, the manner in which your office selected the nine members of the House Committee to investigate the charges against Mr. Swallow was unnecessarily shrouded in secrecy and led to an immediate scandal regarding the conflict of interest in the matter impacting the proposed Committee Chair, Rep. Lowry Snow.
We recognize that conflicts of interest are likely to exist in a small state like Utah, particularly with a part-time legislature. Our concern, therefore, is not that conflicts of interest exist, but, rather, that there does not exist a transparent process for determining 1) whether or not conflicts of interest exist, and 2) whether or not those conflicts are relevant to the case at hand.
The after-the-fact disclosure of Rep. Snow’s conflict and his subsequent dismissal as Committee Chair is a perfect example of what happens when this sort of process is not followed. As you well know, the highly-qualified Snow would likely have otherwise been a very competent chairperson. A full and transparent vetting process could have avoided the further embarrassment of his being named and then dismissed as Committee Chair.
In the interest of transparency and the public’s trust in the House’s investigation into Attorney General Swallow, we ask that you provide more information about the vetting process used to select Committee members. For example,
- What criteria was used to select members of the committee?
- After selecting members, what process was used to vet them for potential conflicts of interest?
- Who was involved in selecting members for the committee?
- What sort of notice was given to committee members before they were asked to serve?
We appreciate your willingness to consider these questions and hope you will take the time to respond to them. Your leadership is a crucial element for restoring the public’s trust in our elected leaders.
Alliance for a Better UTAH