SALT LAKE CITY -- The state's senior parliamentarian praised the Republican House caucus for getting it right, and said the groundwork being laid to deal with embattled Attorney General John Swallow will pay significant dividends in the future.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the House's decision to convene July 3 to establish rules for due process in pursuing an investigation into possible misconduct by Swallow establishes key groundwork, which has never been established in the state's 117-year history.
Valentine, who chairs the Senate's Rules Committee, is often viewed as the textbook for what lawmakers can and cannot do every legislative session. The veteran attorney has served in the Legislature for the past 25 years.
In meeting, the House is expected to establish the groundwork and then vote to establish a committee to look into Swallow's alleged wrongdoings. The committee has the ability to call witnesses and issue subpoenas as it pursues a fact-finding role. Those same rules, however, must be approved by the state Senate. The Senate is expected to convene July 17 to consider approval of those rules.
Without those rules in place, Valentine said, any potential action taken against Swallow -- including impeachment -- could easily be thrown out of court. There have been only two other impeachment cases in the state's history, and neither reached the point of getting rules for the process in place.
House Republicans spent almost two hours going over possible implications of impeachment with attorneys from the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
John Fellows, of the OLRGC, said one of the problems facing lawmakers in the Swallow case is the lack of precedent. He detailed potential problems with court cases with each option discussed.
Swallow has faced allegations of impropriety since he took office in January. He is the subject of a federal probe after indicted Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson accused him of arranging to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation by bribing Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada. He is also the target of complaints filed with the Utah State Bar Association. One complaint alleges the attorney general violated attorney-client privilege during conversations with a business owner cited for breaking telemarketing laws. The other alleges general violations of ethics standards required of attorneys.
Swallow, a Republican, has denied any wrongdoing and said he is eager to tell his side of the story.