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Protesters say Swallow must go, public trust is shot

Published June 19, 2013 2:56 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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

Under siege and concurrent investigations, Utah Attorney General John Swallow must resign — if he is not impeached — because of an enormous erosion of public trust in him.

That sentiment came from two dozen people protesting inside the Capitol Rotunda at an "anti-corruption rally" Wednesday while House Republicans gathered to debate potential impeachment proceedings against the state's top cop.

"He's our employee and today is his performance review," said T.J. Ellerbeck, president of Utah's Young Democrats.

The ongoing scandal, he added, could hamper voter registration and disenfranchise a new generation of Utah voters.

"I'm just disgusted," Holladay resident Nancy Ballard said. "If he had any ethical conscience, he would know that 78.4 percent of us want him gone. He's delusional right now."

A new poll from Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy showed nearly eight in 10 Utah voters want Swallow to resign.

Nearly that many, 71.5 percent, want the House to launch impeachment proceedings.

At Wednesday's rally, conservative blogger and former state legislator Holly Richardson said it's unfortunate that the attorney general's defenders have painted the scandal as an attack on a good person when we have "decades of evidence" of ethics problems with Swallow.

"He should leave," said Bob Patterson, a pipe fitter, who led a small group of men wearing union shirts. "How can our top legal official come under investigation and then turn around and prosecute people? You've bribed people, you've taken bribes — I mean, come on."

Among the resignation signs — and one blurting "AG's Ethics are Hard to Swallow" — Brian Kelly's stood out. "Attention Republicans, You better not play Jesus on my dime."

The Orem resident said he is concerned by the public indictment and potential high price of an impeachment process. "We don't know 100 percent what he did," Kelly said. "If it's going to cost a million or two, I don't think that's appropriate."

Jenn Gonnelly, co-president of the Utah League of Women Voters, dismissed the notion of prosecution by the press. "This is about lawmakers being able to police themselves on ethics."

The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, which organized the rally, said its internal poll of 600 residents shows more than 80 percent of respondents believe the scandal has diluted their confidence in other state leaders.

"This is no longer just the A.G.'s problem," said alliance spokesman Isaac Holyoak. "Act before the toxic effects of this bitter pill leak to other areas."

Hanging toward the back of the group, government watchdog Claire Geddes had a quick word for the Swallow episode: "horrid."

"Everybody keeps saying they need to investigate," Geddes said. "Most of this is on tape — from his own mouth. It's egregious. We don't need another investigation; we need him out of there."

djensen@sltrib.com