House investigators met recently with county attorneys conducting a long-running criminal probe of former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, sharing with them about 1,300 emails they recovered from Swallow’s crashed home computer.
“We worked with them very recently,” said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, chairman of the House Special Investigative Committee. “Sometimes the efforts we planted weeks and months ago are bearing fruit we can harvest now, but our investigation is done. So we are sharing that with other investigations.”
That includes, Dunnigan said, hundreds of emails that experts retrieved from Swallow’s home computer that had been presumed lost when the hard drive malfunctioned.
The bipartisan panel received the emails earlier this month and asked Swallow’s attorneys to conduct further searches for material responsive to a subpoena issued in November. Dunnigan has said they largely corroborate the findings the committee made public in December — that Swallow fabricated documents and destroyed evidence to cover up politically damaging ties to questionable campaign donors and favors done for those contributors.
During their inquiry, House investigators worked closely with the criminal probe — being led by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings — and a special counsel hired by the lieutenant governor to look for campaign violations.
“The cooperation with the House has been ongoing for quite some time,” said Rawlings, who confirmed the recent meeting.
The House panel has not shared with Rawlings and Gill the draft of its final report. Committee members received a copy last week, but there is a 21-day period during which revisions can be made before it can be publicly released. Dunnigan said he plans to have a March 7 committee vote to approve the final version.
Dunnigan said the report will largely expand on December’s public findings. It also will present some avenues of inquiry that were incomplete when the probe shut down after Swallow’s resignation in early December so other investigators could pursue them.
Committee members again discussed two bills intended to close loopholes or refine definitions in law that arose as a result of the Swallow investigation. One would make it a crime to lie or destroy evidence to obstruct a House investigation; the other would tighten campaign finance and conflict-of-interest reporting requirements.
The first stems from the slew of lost, deleted or missing data and devices uncovered in the Swallow probe, as well as other documents that investigators say Swallow created to establish a paper trail.
The second seeks to shed light on the type of outside business and consulting deals Swallow concealed on his conflict-of-interest disclosure — which the lieutenant governor said resulted in five campaign-law violations — and force greater disclosure of campaign finances.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said laws need to be strengthened to let colleagues, the public and those who might seek to influence lawmakers know “things are going to be different from this point forward.”
“I find it extremely egregious that we have to go to these lengths because of what happened in this particular instance,” Dee said. “But having listened to the testimony and reviewed all the evidence … I have come to the conclusion that it is in the public good that we move forward with these allegations to make sure this never happens again in the state.”
The liberal-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah said it hopes ethics legislation makes it to the governor’s desk, but expressed frustration with the pace the bills are moving.
“We are halfway into the legislative session and only now are our elected leaders seriously considering ethics and election reform in the wake of one of the largest scandals in Utah history,” said the group’s executive director, Maryann Martindale. “ ... We can’t guarantee that our elected leaders will behave well, but we can certainly hold them accountable if they don’t.”
Swallow has proclaimed his innocence throughout the ordeal.