Swallow investigation could cost $3M

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:28 PM

Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The legal team assisting the panel of state lawmakers investigating allegations surrounding Utah Attorney General John Swallow has been cleared to start their work, which could lead to a possible impeachment.

The fact-finding committee of House lawmakers on Wednesday formally admitted attorney Steven Reich of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld as special counsel, and Jim Mintz of the New York-based Mintz Group joined the committee to lead the investigative team.

Swallow, a Republican, has been surrounded by allegations of misconduct since assuming office in January. It started when indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson, accused of running a fraudulent $350 million scheme, claimed Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to quash a federal investigation into the software business.

Reid has denied the allegation. Federal officials have not filed any charges but are investigating.

Swallow is also the subject of complaints at the Utah State Bar, and the state elections office is investigating allegations he violated campaign disclosure laws by failing to disclose several business interests.

Swallow has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and says he is confident his name will be cleared by federal and state investigations.

His spokesman Paul Murphy had no comment on the meeting Wednesday. Swallow’s personal attorney Rod Snow did not immediately respond to messages.

The nine-member investigative committee was formed by the Utah House of Representatives in July, with lawmakers citing a need to get their own information about the accusations.

It could take several weeks before the legal team makes a presentation to the committee, said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Republican from Taylorsville and the chair of the committee.

Reich and Mintz did not spell out a specific plan for their probe, but Reich told lawmakers that as they pursue the investigation, they may seek out public and private documents and witnesses for interviews and testimony before the committee.

They did not have a timetable on Wednesday for when they’d begin interviewing witnesses.

“There’s really no one size fits all for how to do an investigation,” Reich said.

Legislative general counsel John Fellows said his staff had begun the preliminary work of mapping out the allegations and available facts and had shared that with the investigators.

The investigation could cost as much as $3 million, according to estimates from legislative analysts.

Dunnigan said after the meeting that he hopes the cost doesn’t reach that point, but they’re not planning to ask the investigators to curtail their work in order to meet that estimate.

“I think we’ll be cognizant of the cost,” he said. We’re aware that we’re using taxpayer dollars, but we certainly want them to go wherever the leads take them and to investigate the things that are appropriate.”

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