How do you solve a problem like John Swallow?

John Swallow

Last week, the Utah State Legislature met, finally, to discuss John Swallow. It is July.

During the 2013 Legislative Session he was all the talk, at least in the hallways. It was during the real onslaught of the accusations, long after Bar complaints had been filed, that on the last day of the session they had to slam through a bill to deal with the election law violation claim that we had filed. Turns out you can’t have the AG investigate the AG. But here we are seven months later and he’s still in office, no doubt spending his days worrying about his legal problems, fielding calls from his attorneys, watching the news to see the “allegation-of-the-day,” all the while continuing to collect his taxpayer-funded paycheck.

John Swallow won his election last year with 65% of the vote. Today, according to a BYU poll and our own internal polling, well over 80% of Utahns want him gone. Yet he still remains.

People are upset and the Legislature knows they must act. They’ve been waiting in hopes that the federal investigation would produce some sort of charges so they wouldn’t have to investigate. But federal investigations are notoriously long, they also investigate criminal charges only. The legislature is tasked with investigating ethical breaches of the public trust–malfeasance in office is the actual term.

Swallow believes that if he is absolved of any actual criminal charges, then there is no need to pursue any other action. Fortunately for the citizens of Utah, he is held to a higher standard as an elected official and his actions do not have to equal criminal charges for him to be held accountable. Even if criminal charges never materialize, the unethical conversations he had with individuals likely to be investigated by his office, promises made for campaign donations, other questionable quid-pro-quo activities while Deputy and as a candidate–are all actions that are well within the scope of the term “malfeasance” and are more than sufficient reason for a legislative investigation.

So, finally, on Wednesday, the day before a long holiday weekend, the House met and voted to create an investigative committee to investigate Swallow. Here’s what they decided:

  • Committee membership: They refused to agree to an equally split membership Republican/Democrat, and went with a 9-member committee. The Speaker has full autonomy in determining the members although she has indicated it will be a 5/4 Republican/Democrat split. She has also promised to make those assignments with the next two weeks.
  • Scope: They also declined to create much scope for the committee’s review. Although it will begin with the timeframe since Swallow entered public employment with the Attorney General’s office (as Mark Shurtleff’s Deputy), the committee has the discretion to broaden that scope.
  • Results: The committee will be tasked with investigating and providing majority and minority reports to the full House. But their reports can only contain the facts, not offer any recommendations.

After watching several hours of the back and forth discussions, the House adjourned with little fanfare. I admit to feeling a little let down. After several months and a whole slew of allegations, I think everyone in the gallery was hoping for a little more resolution.

We have a committee, but we don’t have members yet.

We’ll have an investigation, but it won’t result in any recommendations.

Its clear that Swallow is not going to do the right thing and resign, so the legislature owes it to the citizens of Utah to carry out a thorough but expedient investigation, proceed with impeachment, and remove Swallow from office.

Speaker Lockhart, the ball’s in your court.

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