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Utah A.G. John Swallow: I did nothing wrong and won't resign

Published June 14, 2013 6:26 am

Politics • Attorney general responds to governor, who said he would fire him.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah Attorney General John Swallow reiterated Wednesday that he has no plans to resign and insisted he has not broken any laws or ethical rules.

"I'm not about to walk away because of pressure. I'm not built that way," Swallow told KSL Radio. "I learned on the farm you just don't back off when things get tough."

Swallow was responding to comments by Gov. Gary Herbert, who expressed concerns Tuesday about allegations against the attorney general and said he would have fired Swallow if he worked for him.

"I can tell you from my own viewpoint, again, I'm increasingly alarmed with the stuff that's bubbling out, what I consider ethical challenges, ethical violations," Herbert said, responding to a question from The Salt Lake Tribune. "I can only say if he worked with me before, with all that is coming out, he wouldn't be working for me today."

Swallow noted that attorney general is an elected position, and he doesn't work for the governor. He said he shares Herbert's frustration at how long the investigations into the alleged misdeeds are taking but added that he is sure he will be vindicated.

"Why would you step down from a duly elected office when two-thirds of the people in Utah elected you because of your vision and your platform just because of allegations from questionable sources?" Swallow said during an interview with Doug Wright on KSL Radio.

In addition to the KSL exchange, Swallow conducted interviews with several television stations Wednesday. He has declined repeated Tribune requests for interviews.

Not only did he argue he had done nothing illegal, Swallow said "I've looked at the ethics statutes … and don't see anything I've done that gets close to the line."

He said the accusations are being driven largely by politics and a trial in the news media.

"When this is done," Swallow told KSL, "people will look at what happened and say, 'My goodness, he didn't do those things, and we're glad he stayed with us.' "

Specifically, Swallow said there was nothing improper about trips he took to the posh Newport Beach, Calif., resort of Pelican Hill, paid for by Marc Jenson, who was free on several felony charges based on a deal cut with the attorney general's office.

Swallow said he was a private attorney at the time exploring business options. He said he does not remember charging goods, including an argyle sweater, to Jenson's account.

"I don't like sweaters," Swallow said.

Receipts Jenson provided show Swallow's signature or initials on hundreds of dollars of golf equipment, a hat and a sweater, meals and massages. The villa itself cost about $1,200 a night.

Jenson said Swallow visited Pelican Hill twice in 2009 with his predecessor, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and once on his own. Swallow was then a fundraiser for Shurtleff.

Swallow said that in June 2011, as Shurtleff's chief deputy, he screened himself off from having any involvement in additional felony fraud charges that were filed against Jenson, who is behind bars for failing to pay $4.1 million in restitution, which was part of his previous plea deal.

Swallow denied allegations that donors received special treatment from the attorney general's office. He added that he has instituted a policy in which he will not participate in one-on-one meetings with donors to prevent any future appearance of giving contributors access.

Swallow said he asked for a federal investigation into the allegations against him, even though it's "like putting a fire hose up your nose and turning it on full blast" because he is certain he will be cleared.

"It takes a lot of courage to stand strong in the face of fire, knowing your convictions and knowing what you did or didn't do," he said.

gehrke@sltrib.com