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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Special Counsel Steve Ross and Steve Reich wait for the House Special Investigative Committee to begin its meeting looking into the allegations against then-Utah Attorney General John Swallow to get an update on its probe and its pursuit of records missing from the attorney general's office, Tuesday Nov. 5, 2013 at the Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
Investigator squabbling may have hindered Swallow probe
Legislature » Some evidence didn’t wind up in final House report.
First Published Jun 12 2014 06:46 pm • Last Updated Jun 13 2014 03:09 pm

Utah-based investigators working for a special House committee were hot on the trail of some juicy evidence about then-Attorney General John Swallow when they abruptly backed away.


At a glance

About the House report

The Republican-dominated Utah House created a nine-member bipartisan committee to investigate then-Attorney General John Swallow. The probe, which cost about $4 million, discovered that Swallow had lost or deleted untold volumes of electronic records — from hard drives, computers and hand-held devices. Investigators determined Swallow had fostered a pay-to-play culture in the attorney general’s office. Their final report also alleged he fabricated documents and destroyed evidence as part of a frenzied scheme to cover up inappropriate and politically damaging ties to questionable donors.

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Part of the reason may have been an apparent rivalry and mutual disrespect that festered between the Utah investigators and their New York-based counterparts. And the trigger for a final blowup may have been an email that federal prosecutors mistakenly sent to an already-frightened St. George woman, who was cautiously cooperating with the Utah team.

The result: The final report of the committee’s $4 million probe didn’t include:

• Information about further attempts to cover up Swallow’s past dealings with Jeremy Johnson, the St. George businessman whose revelations helped spark the probe in the first place.

• Swallow’s alleged bid to solicit more money from Johnson to help resolve a criminal investigation of the businessman (though it was part of a footnote).

• New questions about possible political conflicts facing the then-lead federal prosecutor in Johnson’s criminal case.

• Additional witnesses in alleged "pay-to-play" activities within the Utah attorney general’s office.

The bipartisan committee, set up to examine Swallow’s alleged misconduct, hired Steven Reich, a New York attorney and veteran of political inquiries, as special counsel, with investigative help from the New York-based Mintz Group and Salt Lake City-based Lindquist & Associates.

About the time Swallow announced his resignation in late 2013 — after serving less than a year as attorney general — the Utah investigators, Pamela Lindquist and Richard Casper, had developed a relationship with St. George resident Karen Redd, who had been Johnson’s executive assistant.

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The investigators approached Redd about any evidence she had. She was eager to cooperate, she said in an interview, but feared being dragged into Johnson’s legal quagmire.

Redd said Johnson did not know she was meeting with the Utah investigators, but added that she believed doing so would help her former boss, who faces 86 criminal counts and a civil lawsuit from federal regulators.

Redd said she provided some audio files — Johnson secretly recorded many of his meetings — and told the investigators that St. George attorney Travis Marker had met with Swallow in 2011 on Johnson’s behalf and that Swallow had hinted he could help Johnson’s legal troubles disappear for $120,000.

Swallow, through his attorney, has denied any such offer was made.

The Marker allegation never made it into the main body of the final report, because, with Swallow’s exit from office, lawmakers were winding down the increasingly pricey probe. In addition, the accusation had not been substantiated.

"I told Pamela and Rich to cease their work," said committee Chairman Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, "and we also told our other investigators not to do any more investigation."

Redd — who had been told that Dunnigan had dropped Lindquist and Casper from the case — said she was disappointed because the report lacked information she had provided or that she still had in her possession and had been willing to hand over.

In a Dec. 31 email, Redd told Lindquist a reporter had contacted her about providing recordings and other items.

"I feel like if the media gets all the records and evidence," Redd wrote, "it will make the legislative investigation look really bad (especially if they know the Legislature had the evidence at their fingertips … but brushed it away)."

Lindquist forwarded the email to Dunnigan and, according to Redd, that got the Utah investigators reinstated.

Dunnigan said he was told Redd possessed information "that might be valuable and tie some pieces together," so he authorized Lindquist and Casper to pursue it.

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