Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that the federal investigation into Utah Attorney General John Swallow has gone on long enough, and it is time for law enforcement to either charge him with a crime or exonerate him.
“The cloud hanging over it is unacceptable, and I call on the FBI and U.S. attorney to complete this investigation and let us know where it’s at so we can go about our business,” Herbert said during his monthly KUED news conference. “It’s time. I don’t understand the delay. Either charge or exonerate, but let’s get it done.”
For months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has confirmed it has an ongoing investigation into Swallow’s conduct. Then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff went to authorities in October when he learned of Swallow’s dealings — while he was Shurtleff’s chief deputy — with indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, although the FBI had been conducting interviews months earlier.
Herbert was adamant that the investigation needs to wrap up quickly, although he said he has not raised the issue directly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“There’s no reason it should take that long,” Herbert said. “To take four months and to not have some kind of decision, where this is impacting the attorney general’s ability to move forward, is unacceptable.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it would have no response to the governor’s criticism. Former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman said the type of investigation underway takes time.
“It takes considerably longer than you would hope,” he said. “I understand why [the governor] is saying that, because it’s on the forefront. But some of these white-collar criminal investigations — and I’m not saying that’s what this is, but it’s akin to it — some of them take a couple years. I’m sure they’ll be working at a faster pace than that. I’m sure there’s not an intention to take their time with it.”
Swallow’s spokesman, Paul Murphy, said the office understands that investigations can be time consuming.
“I think the attorney general and everyone else shares the governor’s sentiment and wishes it was over, but investigations take as long as they take,” Murphy said. “We have faith they’re doing their jobs and it will be complete as soon as it’s done. ... In the meantime, the attorney general is doing his job.”
Johnson has said that Swallow, before he became attorney general in January, helped put him in touch with the late Check City founder, Richard Rawle, in an effort to help Johnson resolve a Federal Trade Commission probe of Johnson’s businesses. Johnson paid Rawle $250,000, which Johnson has referred to as a bribe, but Rawle said before he died was for lobbying. Rawle also paid Swallow $23,500 for, what Swallow has called, consulting work on a Nevada cement project.
Several business owners also told The Salt Lake Tribune that Swallow, when he was raising money for Shurtleff, indicated they might receive special consideration from the Attorney General’s Office if they contributed to Shurtleff’s campaign.
Herbert said he has heard rumors of people who have been interviewed by the FBI as part of the Swallow investigation, but declined to name them. He said he has not been interviewed.
The FBI is also investigating Herbert’s lieutenant governor, Greg Bell, over allegations that he used his position to intervene in a child-protection case on behalf of a friend and fellow church member.
Herbert expressed complete support for his No. 2 on Wednesday and said he has no doubt that Bell will be exonerated.
“I am absolutely 110 percent confident on the lieutenant governor. I can tell you all the issues I’ve seen about that, this is much ado about nothing,” Herbert said. “Constituents ought to have the confidence they can call and lodge complaints. The oversight that was done by the lieutenant governor was appropriate and proper.
“I can’t be as confident about the attorney general,” Herbert said. “I don’t know all the details there.”