Utah AG says election complaint against him should be dismissed

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:42 AM

Michelle L. Price

SALT LAKE CITY — A campaign disclosure complaint filed against Attorney General John Swallow should be dismissed because it “lacks sufficient merit to be worthy of serious consideration,” Swallow’s personal attorneys said in a response filed with the state elections office.

Swallow’s lawyers said the attorney general filled out his 2012 election forms accurately and truthfully and said parts of the election complaint filed by a progressive political group appear to involve a case of mistaken identity.

The Alliance for a Better Utah filed a complaint in March that alleged Swallow failed to report several business interests on his campaign disclosure forms last year.The lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees elections, released Swallow’s official response to the complaint on Friday after The Associated Press and other media outlets filed public records requests.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell’s office is still reviewing the complaint. If Bell determines the complaint warrants further investigation, he can appoint special counsel to investigate.Mark Thomas, Utah’s director of elections, said his office hasn’t determined what potential penalty would apply if it’s found that Swallow did violate any state election laws.Messages left with Swallow’s spokesman were not returned Friday.

Two entities, Timberline Drilling and Vital Ground Foundation, are cited as business ties Swallow failed disclose, but both actually involve other men also named John Swallow, the attorneys said.

The John Swallow who is listed as a vice president and director of the Idaho-based company Timberline Drilling is actually John A. Swallow, the response said.Martin Lanphere, Timberline Drilling’s president, verified that when reached by phone Friday.

The John Swallow listed as a former trustee of the Vital Ground Foundation is also not the Utah attorney general, Swallow’s lawyers said.

An archived version of the Vital Ground Foundation’s website identifies that trustee as a nature photographer. An accompanying picture shows a man who is not the attorney general.

Swallow’s attorneys, Rodney Snow and Jennifer James, also state in the response that other business interests listed in the complaint were not active during the required reporting period or involve assets in his family’s blind trust, in which Swallow is not a beneficiary.

Utah law does not require candidates to disclose that they were the creators of such a trust, only if they are owners or officers, the attorneys said.

Other entities the complaint listed involve “dormant” companies that are no longer conducting business or entities which Swallow is no longer involved with and did not fall under the campaign disclosure requirements, the attorneys argued.

Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said attorneys working for the group are reviewing the response and plan to issue a detailed reply next week.

Martindale said Swallow should be taking their complaint seriously because there’s a lack of trust and “faith in the ability of the Attorney General to carry on his duties.”In regards to the claims about a mistaken identity, Martindale did say the group may have made some mistakes in their complaint.

“There were a couple of those included that may have been erroneous,” she said, but said they “still feel that the bulk of the claim has merit.”

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