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Swallow says he's innocent, asks GOP for patience

Published June 22, 2013 6:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Sandy • Utah Attorney General John Swallow appeared before state Republican Party leaders Saturday to proclaim his innocence, thank them for hanging with him against a barrage of allegations and investigations and to ask them to be patient for two or three more months.

"I look forward in a few months from now to being cleared of these allegations," Swallow told the GOP state Central Committee on Saturday, referring to accusations that he suggested potential donors could get special consideration if their businesses came under scrutiny of state regulators.

He declined to take questions, saying the party meeting at the Salt Lake Community College Larry H. Miller campus was not the proper forum for that. But he encouraged committee members to contact him privately.

There was polite applause when he concluded, though some of the estimated 140 in the audience sat quietly, without clapping.

Swallow characterized it to reporters as being "received really warmly."

Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said he was glad Swallow spoke to the committee.

"The body was respectful and they listened," Evans said. "Members are just reserving taking action since the House of Representatives is addressing this through their process."

The Utah House last week approved creation of an investigative committee to look into the Swallow allegations and recommend whether the body should commence impeachment proceedings. Also investigating the attorney general are federal and state law enforcement officials and a-yet-to-be-named special counsel looking into election law violations. Ethics complaints also have been filed with the Utah State Bar.

Elected last November, the attorney general has been rocked by wave after wave of allegations about misconduct or questionable ethics ever since he took office in January. He stopped short of apologizing for the controversy but told fellow Republicans he felt "really badly for the firestorm that is out there right now."

Swallow said he has instituted a system of "checks and balances" in his office whereby he only agrees to meet with businesses or individuals requesting it through a formal application process vetted by staff and with another employee present. This new policy is to ensure, he said, that he won't be "in situations that would compromise the integrity of the attorney general or the office."

Among the allegations raised against Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, are that they met privately with business owners who were under investigation by state regulators or who had a regulatory track record. Some have suggested that campaign donations were brought up in the meetings.

"It's been an incredible experience to go through. It's been a horrible experience to go through," Swallow said of the months-long scandal.

Still, in outlining some of the issues his office is working on, including trying to claim rights of way across federal lands and formulating a legal response to a soon-expected Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Swallow said he is "having the time of my life … notwithstanding the barrage."