SALT LAKE CITY - House Speaker Becky Lockhart will convene a special meeting of the Utah House of Representatives on July 3 to initiate the investigative process against Attorney General John Swallow.
A day after the Republic House caucus voted to form an investigative committee to look into charges against Swallow, Lockhart sent out a notice to House members informing them of the special meeting.
In convening, the House will be able to create rules to allow the establishment of committees to investigate certain issues through the use of subpoenas and other available meetings, rather than to go through the impeachment process and potentially use a similar process.
Lockhart has stressed the meeting will be open and the committees set up to investigate charges against the embattled AG will report back to the House with their findings when their work is complete. The makeup of the committee or committees has not been established but Lockhart promised there would be a bipartisan element to the groups. There are 75 members in the House, 61 are Republican and there are 14 Democrats.
In any impeachment process, a two-thirds majority would be needed to initiate the legal process. House Democrats indicated they were ready to move forward with a probe into Swallow's charges either through the formal impeachment proceedings or through a House committee probe.
The attorney general has been linked to at least six separate charges ranging from a charge of alleged bribery to withholding information and election fraud. He is currently the subject of at least five separate investigations.
By going the committee route, lawmakers have not taken impeachment completely off the table, but they have delayed it significantly if a committee's finding was to lead the House to potentially consider that option. By state law, the House plays a fact-finding role in any impeachment while the Senate has the decision-making role. There have been only two impeachment cases in Utah's 117-year history.
"I have great faith that this body will do what is best for the people of Utah," Lockhart wrote.
House leaders contend they looked at a lot of options in coming up with the committee recommendation, including impeachment proceedings from 11 other states. In the end they said they were not comfortable in initiating impeachment proceedings based on information gathered from other sources.
"What had become very apparent from the caucus discussion was that we need our own information, that we can own as a House of Representatives, not information from innuendo but facts that we can gather as a House of Representatives," Lockhart said.
It was Top of Utah Representative Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, who made the motion to use a different route to look at the charges against Swallow, instead of using the impeachment process to conduct the probe.
Swallow praised lawmakers for choosing the path they did and maintains he is eager to tell his side of the story.
Besides the possibility of impeachment, there is another issue which is coming to the forefront as lawmakers consider the potential implications of misbehavior by the attorney general: costs.
Several lawmakers worried that any investigation of Swallow may end up costing taxpayers millions.
Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, who chairs the House's appropriations committee, said any costs incurred in probing charges against Swallow will have to come out of the state budget. But he suggested it is something lawmakers have to do.
"How can you put a cost on trust?" Brown told the Standard-Examiner.