GOP lawmaker shields Swallow from Dems’ questions

Posted at 9:29 PM, Feb 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-16 00:44:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Accused of helping solicit bribes, Utah Attorney General John Swallow met with lawmakers on Friday.

Swallow has been accused of soliciting bribes by businessman Jeremy Johnson, who is facing federal fraud allegations, and is now being investigated by the FBI.

He came face-to-face with state lawmakers on Friday, and some tried asking if he'd be able to do his job under a cloud of controversy.

The co-chair of the committee that oversees the attorney general's budget wants to just go ahead and get the work done, but two Democratic committee members say steps should be taken to hold executives accountable.

"Are you going to be able to continue doing what you do and allow the office to efficiently and effectively work," asked Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, in committee on Friday.

His question was ruled out of order, but Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, says that the questions are relevant and that it looks like an attempt to shield Swallow.

"Mr. Chair we just heard them testify about compensation for individuals within the office. This relates directly to that," Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, replied. "It's hard for me to understand why those questions were out of order other than an attempt to shield Attorney General Swallow."

But committee chair Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-Salt Lake and Tooele Counties, says that he doesn't want to waste time and that finishing a budget is his first priority.

"I have one more meeting before we start voting on priority lists and I'm not going to waste that time on political grandstanding. That can be done anywhere, but not in my appropriations committee," Thatcher said. "So regardless of who the AG is or may be, we still need to do our job and get these funding requests prioritized in the committee."

Thatcher says that the allegations against Swallow should be addressed in the courts, not legislative committees.

When asked by FOX 13 about the checks and balances the legislature on the attorney general's office, Thatcher said, "I don't know about that. I know what our ethics processes are. I don't know what they are in the executive branch. But frankly I'm certain they are there."

But short of impeachment, there is not a mechanism for examining or enforcing ethics in state law. The Utah Legislature has only started the impeachment process once in its history, and the process have never been used completely.