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Utah Dems want to join GOP talks on Swallow impeachment

Published June 17, 2013 6:40 am

Politics • Bipartisan effort urged; the Eagle Forum defends Swallow.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Democratic Rep. Brian King is pushing to have Utah's minority party included in discussions of whether the House should move forward with impeachment of John Swallow while the conservative Eagle Forum is rallying to the attorney general's defense.

"If we really are going to do something like this in a bipartisan way," he said Sunday, "we ought to have the discussion as the whole House."

Instead of Republican House members meeting together Wednesday to focus on options for addressing the allegations against Swallow, King wants House members from both parties to assemble to debate how to move forward.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart said Democrats had an opportunity last month to discuss the Swallow issue, but Republicans did not meet and haven't had the same talks.

"It seems to be a political maneuver with some pretty interesting timing," she said. Asked if she thought King was trying to ensure the House moves ahead with impeachment she responded: "I hope not, but that's what it looks like."

She said Republicans plan to spend three hours on the issues and she anticipates an "open and robust" discussion.

To foster the conversations, the Salt Lake City Democrat sent his House colleagues a resolution he has had drafted that would serve to initiate the impeachment process against the attorney general.

The five-page resolution spells out the questions about Swallow's conduct that King sees needing to be addressed and the potential grounds for impeaching the state's top cop.

King said he may not file the resolution but added that it seems unlikely the majority Republicans would line up behind an impeachment led by a Democrat.

House Democrats discussed the Swallow matter in May. Earlier this month, they unanimously called for a thorough investigation of the attorney general, either through a special committee or, if necessary, via impeachment.

Meantime, the Utah Eagle Forum is encouraging its members to call representatives and urge them not to move forward with any action against Swallow.

An email sent Saturday by forum president Gayle Ruzi­cka and vice president Dalane England laid out talking points for members and urged them to argue that the FBI investigation should be allowed to run its course before the Legislature gets involved.

"Attorney General John Swallow has done absolutely nothing since becoming the attorney general of Utah that would justify or even suggest impeachment," the email states, noting that the Utah Constitution says elected officials can be impeached for "high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance in office," but the accusations against Swallow pertain to actions allegedly taken before he took office in January.

"It is totally unfair and possibly unethical to suggest impeachment to the Legislature or any other type of legal action against John by persons who could be motivated by political or personal agenda," the Eagle Forum argues. "They have no factual information, only hearsay and innuendo to justify their positions."

The email goes on to raise many of the arguments put forth by Swallow's attorney, Rod Snow, in a letter sent to legislators last week and includes a copy of that letter.

The Eagle Forum also insists that Swallow is being unfairly persecuted in the news media and warns that impeaching him would be costly, disruptive to the office and discourage good candidates from running in the future, while encouraging political enemies to mount similar smear campaigns.

gehrke@sltrib.com