SALT LAKE CITY -- The legislative body charged with fact-finding in any impeachment proceeding has decided it wants its own unfiltered facts before initiating any action against embattled Attorney General John Swallow.
House Republicans, who hold 61 of the 75 seats in the House, voted in caucus Wednesday to form a special investigative committee to look into allegations against Swallow.
The House is expected to convene soon to ratify that plan.
Swallow met with some lawmakers involved in the Conservative Caucus on Wednesday morning, before the GOP caucus started.
John L. Fellows, general counsel for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, spent almost two hours detailing the options available to lawmakers and outlined the long trail needed to possibly remove a person from office.
The House is charged with a fact-finding role, while the Senate has the final word on any action taken as a result.
One of the problems facing lawmakers in the Swallow case is the lack of precedent, Fellows said.
There have been only two impeachment cases in Utah's history. One, in 1935, was initiated when the secretary of state was unable to account for $25,000 to $28,000, but the official was exonerated after a week. The second case, in 2003, was initiated when a judge faced a criminal charge, only to have the judge in question resign before the process went very far.
Fellows said even with all the legal wrinkles, the process comes down to other things.
"This is a political process in the best sense of the word," Fellows told lawmakers.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, conducted the caucus and said the Legislature is going into uncharted waters in considering impeachment options against Swallow. He said lawmakers who entered the caucus with their minds already made up weren't doing their job completely.
"I want to make sure we fulfill our constitutional obligation as this process has come to us," Dee said.
House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, praised GOP action to form the committee and said Democrats look forward to working in a bipartisan and transparent fashion to find the facts.
"We hope to establish a timeline for the work that must be done, and best practices that will allow for unmitigated public access to the process. We are committed to moving forward in a thoughtful way while assuring the public that we are taking action," Seelig said.
Swallow has been hit with allegations of impropriety since shortly after he assumed office in January. He is the subject of a federal investigation after indicted Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson accused him of arranging to derail a Federal Trade Commission probe by bribing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada.
Swallow is also the target of complaints filed at the Utah State Bar Association. One complaint alleges Swallow violated attorney-client privilege during conversations with a business owner cited for breaking telemarketing laws.
The other alleges general violations of ethical standards required of attorneys.
Swallow, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing in any of the cases.