Herbert says Feds should either clear, or indict AG

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:49 AM

Michelle L. Price

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert says federal investigators need to “either charge or exonerate” Utah Attorney General John Swallow because the state can’t move forward until Swallow is cleared of bribery allegations that have been made against him.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI have given no indication about the status of their investigations, but they need to wrap them up, Herbert said during his monthly news conference with reporters Wednesday.

Swallow has been accused of orchestrating a plan to quash a federal investigation by bribing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Both he and Reid have denied the allegations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced in January that they were investigating.

Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment Wednesday.

Messages left with the FBI seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Herbert said he doesn’t have details about the Swallow investigation or whether the matter really is being investigated, but he said there’s no reason it should be taking this long.

“Good grief — U.S. Attorney’s Office and those involved in it — come to a decision,” Herbert said. “This cloud hanging over it is unacceptable.”

Herbert called on the federal agencies to complete their investigation and make the results known “so we can go on about our business, whatever that needs to be,” he said.

“Either charge or exonerate, but let’s get it done,” he said.

Herbert said he has not been briefed on the status of the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and would not name anyone that he’s heard may have been interviewed.

Herbert said he had not been interviewed by investigators.

Swallow was barely in office a week before federally indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson’s allegations were revealed in January. He claims Swallow was part of a bribery scheme that failed to derail a federal investigation into Johnson’s business. Johnson maintains that Swallow set up a plan to stop the investigation by bribing Reid.

Swallow denies the allegation and asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to clear his name. Reid denies having anything to do with Johnson.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced their investigations soon after the allegations were made public.

On Wednesday, Swallow’s spokesman Paul Murphy said “the attorney general and a lot of other people share the governor’s sentiment that we would like the investigation to be done as quickly as possible. But on the practical level, we understand that investigations can take time and we have complete confidence that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office will do a thorough investigation.”

Murphy said the type of investigation being conducted by the federal authorities can take some time but “in the end we think that the attorney general will be completely exonerated.”

The governor on Wednesday also spoke about the ongoing FBI investigation into Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who has been accused of commissioning an audit to interfere with a child welfare case.

Bell has defended his audit, which he said was not intended to influence the outcome of the case but was needed to further investigate complaints that were brought before him about the agency.

Herbert said he is “absolutely, 110 percent confident” any allegations of wrongdoing against Bell will be cleared.

“I can tell you that all the issues I’ve seen about that, that this is much ado about nothing,” Herbert said, and called Bell’s oversight in the matter “appropriate and proper.”

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said his office and the FBI are investigating abuse-of-power allegations against Bell. The FBI has declined to confirm or deny its involvement.

Rawlings did not return messages Wednesday seeking an update on that investigation.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.