Peg McEntee: Legislature's goal in Swallow scandal: find the truth
In the matter of Utah Attorney General John Swallow, there's no shortage of explorations into how he should be investigated on allegations that he, among other things, brokered shady deals and made improper promises on his way to winning the job in last year's election.
The Republican-dominated House is trying to figure out how to organize impeachment proceedings if evidence against Swallow is deemed solid enough to do so. House Republicans are scheduled to discuss the issue during a June 19 caucus.
House Democrats, meantime, are calling for a special committee to collect evidence on the claims against the attorney general or the start of formal impeachment proceedings.
Now, Senate Democrats all five of them want to put the whole mess before the Government Operations Committee next month.
The idea is to build public trust in the legislative system as the committee explores allegations against Swallow and ensure that all of them are scrutinized in the open.
Given the Republicans' tendencies to close their caucuses though they have said they intend to keep the Swallow portion open it's a good idea that comes at the right time.
"We just want to get a process going so people know what the allegations are and if they rise to impeachment," Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said Monday.
Asked what he hoped the committee would find, Davis said, "The truth. What's the allegation and what's the truth. Has Swallow broken the public trust?"
Swallow hasn't been talking much these days, but his spokesman resolutely defends him.
But the attorney general, who took over in January, has been busy keeping lawmakers informed of his office's quest to prosecute criminals, protect children and represent state agencies "with skill and integrity," he wrote in an email last week.
For example, his office is working hard to preserve 10,000 roads in Utah as a result of a "significant victory" in Kane County, which has fought for years to protect its rural routes, even if they're the size of a deer trail.
His prosecutors are "doing stellar work," Swallow noted, in prosecuting white-collar criminals and winning restitution for victims.
And the state is defending a lawsuit over the constitutionality of the Utah Constitution's Amendment 3, which holds that marriage is between one man and one woman. (Wonder how all those unprosecuted polygamists feel about that.) In addition, Swallow's troops are supporting California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act "so Utah can retain the right to define marriage."
Sometime this month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on both those issues.
Swallow apparently needs to make a case for all his good works, presumably in the hope of convincing lawmakers that he and his team are still doing their jobs despite the scandal and reports of low morale.
But the Legislature may have lots to say about whether Swallow keeps his job. Whether through impeachment or committee or legal investigations, the truth almost surely will come out and sometimes the truth isn't pleasant.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.
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