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Governor signs bill to keep attorney general from investigating himself

Published March 27, 2013 4:55 pm

Law • Measure is among 187 signed by Herbert so far.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed 89 bills Wednesday, including one removing a conflict from state law that would have had Attorney General John Swallow investigate claims of campaign violations filed against himself.

The change takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 1, before the group Alliance for a Better Utah filed a complaint alleging that Swallow omitted or concealed various business interests on his financial disclosure for both himself and his wife, and seeks Swallow's removal from office.

Under state law, it would have been Swallow's office that would have had to investigate the claims. The conflict was discovered during the last days of the legislative session, and lawmakers rushed through SB289, giving the lieutenant governor the authority to hire a special counsel to investigate the complaint.

The lieutenant governor's office is still reviewing the complaint and likely won't take any action for several weeks, according to Mark Thomas, the administrator of the office.

The alleged omissions include P-Solutions, a company that was held by Swallow and his wife that received $23,500 in consulting payments from Richard Rawle, the late founder of the Provo-based Check City payday-loan franchise.

Rawle had received the money from Jeremy Johnson as part of a deal Swallow helped arrange to help Johnson avoid a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission alleging deceptive business practices at Johnson's I Works company.

Swallow insists the payment was for consulting work on a cement plant and was unrelated to the Johnson deal and says he returned the money, seeking payment from another account.

The stake in P-Solutions and other companies was not listed on his original financial-disclosure form. Swallow removed his name from the management of several companies several days later and filed a new disclosure but still did not include his wife's stake in the companies.

A federal investigation is also under way into Swallow's conduct.

Herbert also signed HB44, sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, which requires polling companies to disclose who is paying for their services. And he signed HB100, sponsored by Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, which prevents employers from demanding workers share their usernames and passwords for their online accounts.

The governor also approved SB103, expanding the Carson Smith Scholarship program, a voucher system to help the parents of special-needs students pay for their education. And he signed SB98, which makes it a class B misdemeanor to propel saliva, feces or other bodily substances at someone and a class A misdemeanor if the substance is infected with HIV or hepatitis.

Lawmakers passed more than 500 bills that require action by the governor. So far he has signed 187 and vetoed one bill, which would have changed Utah's concealed-weapons laws.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke