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Editorial: Swallow can end expensive investigation by quitting

Published November 7, 2013 10:37 pm

It is time for Swallow to go
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

If Utah Attorney General John Swallow were really worried about how much the investigation of his business and fundraising dealings with questionable characters is costing state taxpayers, he could stop the meter pretty darn quick.

He could resign his office. He could send all the expensive investigators packing and allow the rest of state government to go about its business without the gloom of the Swallow scandals hanging over them.

If Swallow were an experienced prosecutor, rather than the political wheeler-dealer he is, he might recognize that the stunning disappearance of a slew of electronic records that the most greenhorn attorney would know should be preserved — especially when an office and an individual are so clearly under suspicion — is the kind of revelation that would get a private citizen or business owner in deep, deep hot water.

As any good lawyer might say: How many times can you claim you didn't know the gun was loaded?

Yet the attorney general insists that there is nothing to it. No reason to doubt him. Nothing going on but a political witch hunt. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Swallow has gone so far as to accuse the lawmakers investigating him, and the outside expert brought in to lead the probe, of deliberately ginning up the whole case just to justify all the money they are spending, and will spend, on the matter. The attorney general also says a many-thousand-page document dump and the fact that he never hid the fact that so many documents are missing should also excuse him.

But the normal understanding of a politically motivated probe is members of one party digging dirt on a member of the other party. That is clearly not the case here.

Swallow is a Republican. So is the leadership of the Legislature, including members of the special investigative panel who have expressed much displeasure with the attorney general's data processing habits.

So is Gov. Gary Herbert, who has mostly stayed out of the matter but has made it clear more than once that if the attorney general were his employee, rather than an independently elected official, he'd have been fired months ago. Not because he is guilty of any crime, necessarily, but because he would simply be incapable of performing his duties.

Swallow is, politically and administratively, a dead man walking.

His continued efforts to hang on to an office that belongs, not to him, but to the people of Utah, cost us money and, more importantly, the services of a key state office.