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Peg McEntee: House GOP takes good first step down Swallow path

Utah House Republicans had plenty of choices regarding Attorney General John Swallow, but in the end they voted to investigate whether he should be impeached.

Evidently, the caucus was not swayed by Swallow’s late-night email Tuesday nor his Capitol foray Wednesday, when he met with some lawmakers in a vain attempt to derail a long, hard look into the fishy activities that got him into trouble in the first place.

And while it was the Republicans’ right to meet, it’s a shame that they left out the few Democrats whom voters also sent to the House.

But it is commendable that the Republicans decided not to delay, as some wanted, nor let the potential cost of impeachment, which could run into the millions, scare them off.

“Can we put a price on the public trust?” House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, wisely asked.

What lies before House members now is a murky river of decisions they’ll have to wade through in the absence of any impeachment in state history.

“There’s no guidance on the nuts and bolts of the process,” said John Fellows, the legislative general counsel. “Policy and procedure are all up to the representatives.”

That led House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, to rightly insist that the investigative committee be bipartisan and fully transparent.

Swallow faces serious allegations: bribery, extortion, rules violations, withholding information on his campaign financial disclosure forms. He also is the subject of criminal investigations.

Impeachment is a political action, not a criminal one, and at present Swallow faces no charges. But his continued presence as the state’s top cop has left voters deeply uneasy.

A poll — released this week from Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy — found that nearly 80 percent of Utahns want Swallow to resign. If he doesn’t, more than 70 percent want the House to launch formal impeachment proceedings.

Mr. Swallow, the alligators are circling. It’s time to do right by your fellow Utahns and resign.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.

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