SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah legislators have created a committee with subpoena powers to investigate Attorney General John Swallow, the first step in his possible impeachment.
The Utah House voted Wednesday to direct a nine-member panel to look into Swallow's conduct after he joined the Attorney General's Office in 2009.
House Democrats sought near-equal representation on the panel, but majority Republicans voted them down. House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, a Republican, will appoint the members.
Allegations of self-dealing have dogged Swallow, a Republican, almost since he took office in January. Two businessmen in trouble with the law have accused him and former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff of making promises or suggestions of protection in exchange for cash, favors and spa vacations. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Swallow was Shurtleff's campaign fundraiser and chief deputy before succeeding his boss in an election.
"He welcomes the chance to provide information to the Legislature, and hopes they will be fair and follow the law," said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Swallow, who was not at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday.
Swallow's attorney, Rod Snow, has contended legislators can look no further back into Swallow's dealings than when he took office in January. Legislators disagreed, setting the clock back to 2009, when Swallow became Shurtleff's chief deputy.
The House panel will have the power to issue subpoenas, interview witnesses under oath and grant them immunity from prosecution. It will hire a general counsel and investigators.
The panel will deliver a factual report to the House, but will not make any recommendation on what action should be taken against Swallow. A House vote for impeachment would lead to a trial in the Senate.
Swallow is under a federal investigation for his dealings with indicted and imprisoned businessmen and under a state investigation for alleged election law violations.
"We got a lot of allegations, but not necessarily the facts," said Rep. Dean Sanpei, R-Provo, sponsor of a resolution empaneling the special investigative committee. "I'm not saying we're going to impeach today. I'm saying we need information."