SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature took the first steps toward an investigation into allegations of misconduct surrounding Attorney General John Swallow, modifying laws in special session and forming a special committee.
"This is an issue that I do not see as partisan," House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, said Wednesday. "It has to do with the people of Utah, and their trust."
Lockhart named five Republicans and four Democrats to the committee, which will investigate allegations leveled against the state's top law enforcement official. The House Investigative Committee consists of:
- Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, an attorney who will chair the committee
- Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, the House Majority Leader
- Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville
- Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper
- Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, an attorney
- Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, House Minority Leader
- Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City
- Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City
- Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna
The committee's findings would go to the House, which could begin impeachment proceedings against Swallow.
"I think that what we're looking at is an elected official, regardless of party, that the public has clearly stated that they have issue with," said House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City.
In special session Wednesday, lawmakers voted to make changes to Utah State law to allow the investigative committee to proceed -- including the power to subpoena witnesses and grant immunity. Some meetings will be held behind closed doors, and the committee will hire outside legal counsel and an investigator.
Some lawmakers objected to the committee, including Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan.
"We're taking a bazooka, potentially at a fly," he said on the House floor as the bills were debated. "We're taking this huge investigative swath, saying we'll investigate and then we'll look at a standard later."
Swallow is facing a number of investigations, accusing him of misconduct including bribes and taking gifts. On Tuesday, his attorneys fired off a letter challenging the constitutional authority of the legislature to create a committee. Lockhart disagreed.
Snow, who is chairing the committee, said he hoped other agencies investigating the attorney general would cooperate with them -- including the FBI. In an interview with FOX 13, Snow said he also hoped Swallow would be willing to cooperate.
"Mr. Swallow has made it clear he would welcome a forum where he could clear up the record and I'm hoping he'll take advantage of that," he said.