SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah lawmakers have initiated a request for an audit of the Utah Attorney General's Office.
Members of the legislative audit subcommittee voted Monday to direct the state's auditing department to look at high-risk areas of the state's top law-enforcement agency. The audit comes on the heels of months of allegations against Attorney General John Swallow and recent action in the House to form a committee to investigate the charges.
The subcommittee consists of House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo; House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City; Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy; and Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. Lockhart said there has been concern in the House about the performance of the AG's office in general.
The audit will be conducted by the office of the Legislative Auditor General and directed by John Schaff, auditor general, who cautioned committee members that asking for too extensive a probe would consume most of the resources of his office.
"We do not have the capacity to audit entire departments. I worry that we need to scope things. We need to scope and identify how effective and efficient this agency is," Schaff told lawmakers.
He said his office already is involved in 14 separate audits.
Before 2003, Schaff said that, the office did more extensive audits, but he said the recent trend has been to do smaller audits and more of them.
Lockhart said lawmakers will have more details on how extensive the audit will be by their next committee meeting. She said the audit is just another key step to assure the people of Utah that the AG's office is working for them.
"It's a significant issue and something we need to find out," Lockhart said.
Niederhauser said he favors more in-depth audits, but that he recognizes the need to balance resources. He wondered if the audit is being conducted on the AG's office from a political standpoint because of allegations against Swallow.
"Is that what is motivating this at this point?" Niederhauser asked.
Finding the high-risk areas of the office may not be that easy. The office has more than 455 employees and 233 attorneys.
Swallow released a statement vowing to help with any potential probe.
"I plan to fully cooperate with the Legislative Auditor if the audit subcommittee authorizes an audit of the Attorney General's Office," Swallow said.
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, suggested an audit of the AG's office is in line with legislation he ran in 2011 asking that at least two state agencies be audited every year.
He claimed the audit wasn't being generated because of concerns about Swallow so much as concern about the efficiency of the office in general. He pointed out that in 2006 the AG's office outsourced work on the Legacy Highway, which resulted in a lawsuit and $40 million in penalties.
Swallow 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.
He 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 attorney general has denied any wrongdoing and has said he is eager to tell his side of the story. Six separate investigative groups, including the Davis County attorney's office, are conducting probes into allegations against Swallow.