SALT LAKE CITY-- After a marathon caucus meeting Wednesday, Utah House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to create an investigative committee to look into the actions of embattled Attorney General John Swallow.
The move is seen as a precursor to possible impeachment proceedings.
Swallow has been in a world of controversy since he was sworn into office in January. The first allegation came seven days after-- when Jeremy Johnson, a St. George businessman, accused Swallow of setting up a bribe with top federal lawmakers.
Swallow has since denied the accusation.
In May, Marc Jenson, a felon serving prison time for bilking investors out of millions, claimed Swallow took favors from him. Swallow admitted to taking a trip to Jenson's villa at Pelican Hill in southern California, but said he was a private attorney at the time.
Since then, liberal and conservative groups have called for his resignation.
On June 11, Governor Gary Herbert said he would fire Swallow if he had worked in his office.
“I can tell you from my own viewpoint, I’m increasingly alarmed at the stuff that’s bubbling out,” Herbert said. “What I consider ethical challenges, ethical violations I can only say if he worked for me before with all this coming up, he wouldn’t be working for me today.”
Swallow said he had a last-minute meeting with lawmakers before Wednesday's caucus meeting. He said he wanted them to know his side of the story.
“I have no concerns,” Swallow said. “I really believe that these legislators are trying to do the work of the people, and people should be proud that the legislature is interested enough, based on what they’ve seen and heard, to really try and dig in and find out what’s really going on. And I think that’s a healthy process. All I want to do is answer questions and restore public trust.”
Matt Lyon, Utah Democratic Party executive director, issued the following statement in response to the issue:
“Utah Democrats applaud the Legislature’s efforts to pull together an investigative committee to bring forward the facts and open the issue to the public. The public’s faith in our democracy hangs in the balance, and only through true bipartisanship, with equal representation from both parties, can the Legislature restore accountability and public trust.
These scandals were born in the shadowy backrooms of the Republican party, and are a direct result of the arrogance caused by 28 years of one-party rule. Today, the public’s trust is at risk, and it is critical that our leaders take action to address the allegations surrounding a culture of unethical behavior in our highest offices. We need facts, and we have a right to know what happened. The people of Utah must have confidence that all avenues and all questions will be answered to the fullest possible degree, without the threat of political influence.
As the recent BYU poll showed, the ethical concerns and questions about John Swallow have been allowed to sit, unaddressed, for too long and Utahns are frustrated. Democrats share their concerns and hope today marks the first in a series of steps needed to address the culture of unethical behavior. It is gratifying to see the Republicans in the Legislature joining the chorus. It is clear that Utahns want this situation resolved, so the Legislature can get back to doing the business of the people.”
This is a developing story. We'll bring you additional developments as they become available.