SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert says he applauds the decision by Utah lawmakers to start an investigation into allegations surrounding Attorney General John Swallow, a fellow Republican.
Herbert said in his monthly televised news conference Thursday that lawmakers in the Utah House are doing the right thing by taking a methodical approach to the controversy. "I think the Legislature is wise in saying we need to find out whether in fact there is only smoke or is there some fire out there."
House Republicans on Wednesday discussed possible impeachment but instead voted to pursue a fact-finding mission. Swallow said he welcomes the investigation and repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing.
Starting shortly after he assumed office in January, the attorney general has been hammered by allegations of misconduct.
Swallow is the subject of a federal investigation into accusations by an indicted Utah businessman that he engineered a plot to thwart a Federal Trade Commission probe by bribing U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada. Reid has denied the allegations.
There are also complaints filed with the Utah State Bar and the elections office alleging misconduct by Swallow. The Utah lieutenant Governor's Office, which oversees Utah elections, is bringing on outside attorneys to help investigate the complaints.
Two Republican lawmakers have publicly called for Swallow to resign, something Swallow has repeatedly declared he will not do.
"I'm here to do a job I was elected to do," he said Wednesday. "And I'm absolutely certain that the investigation will exonerate me."
Swallow said it will give lawmakers a chance to get independent answers.
On Thursday, Herbert said it's frustrating that the federal investigation has not concluded but commended lawmakers for taking what he called a cautious approach. "I think they're going through this in a methodical, deliberate, wise way to make sure that they are not overreacting. This is an elected official that's been put in office by the people. This is a serious situation."
The House plans to convene July 3 to establish the investigative committee and its procedures. There is no timeline for the committee to report back to lawmakers, but House Speaker Becky Lockhart said lawmakers will determine that when they convene.
Herbert also said Thursday he's not ready to support one lawmaker's proposal to convert the attorney general's office from an elected position to an appointed one.
The idea was proposed by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who says that if the attorney general were appointed by the governor or the Legislature, the state's top law enforcement officer could be free from the influence of campaign contributions.
Herbert said he thinks "there is some wisdom in that" and that it is worthy of discussion, but he doesn't yet have a position on the idea. "I don't know that there's any silver bullet that kills every problem out there politically."