Shut down Swallow committee now, critics urge

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:05 AM

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

BOUNTIFUL — Two Davis County lawmakers who were among a small majority voting against the commission to investigate former Utah Attorney General John Swallow say it’s time to quit spending any more on the probe.

Swallow resigned effective at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, and there has been discussion about the House investigation at least moving forward to some conclusion.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, who chairs the committee, has suggested the special House commission needs to finish its work and prepare a report for legislative review, as it set out to do in pursuing charges against Swallow.

The group is expected to re-evaluate the scope of its investigation, perhaps as soon as this week.

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, said the central focus of a House investigation into Swallow’s conduct is now moot and the group should not go on spending taxpayer funds. He was one of three lawmakers to vote against the House probe.

“To soldier on, following the same trajectory we would have pursued had Swallow not resigned, would not, in my view, be the wisest use of taxpayer resources,” Nielson said.

The group has spent $1.5 million in the probe so far. Nielson said he can see value in closing out the report, but he thinks any future expenses should be few, if any.

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, also voted against the probe into allegations against the former AG. He wanted more specific direction for the group in its fact-finding mission.

He said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s decision last week not to pursue legal action against Swallow for alleged election violations closed the deal.

“No more money should be spent on any further investigation into Swallow, especially since the lieutenant governor has decided not to pursue any civil action. Any further effort is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Oda said.

Both Oda and Nielson said they have no regrets for their decision not to back the House probe and would vote the same way again, under the same circumstances, in hindsight.

Even though he opposed the investigation the way it was laid out, Nielson said there will be some value in the group’s final report for the House.

“The value is, there will be full and public disclosure,” he said of allegations against Swallow.

He bristled at the idea that the House probe needed to do any more than go into closedown mode, however.

“I sense another undercurrent related to decisions about the investigation’s future. It is perhaps that we must continue because we have spent so much,” Nielson said.

“I would respond to that notion by asserting that the amount of money expended to date does not in any way justify continuing the investigation any longer than absolutely necessary. It is an issue of sunk costs.”

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