Defiant Swallow Tenders His Resignation

Written by Bob Bernick on . Posted in Today At Utah Policy

336.

That’s how many days Utah Attorney General John Swallow will have been Utah’s top law enforcement officer when his resignation becomes official Dec. 2.

 

As first reported on UtahPolicy.com Thursday morning, Swallow announced that he would be stepping down after what he called a “10 month frenzy” by the media and political and personal enemies.

He says he no can longer afford to fight the enormous financial pressure of “political” and “personal” opponents in the Utah House.

That was a charge that Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart flatly denied – saying she and other GOP legislative leaders have always maintained that the House’s special investigation into Swallow’s problems are a response to citizens’ demands that the truth be found.

Even though Swallow will be Citizen Swallow after Dec. 2, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Lockhart, R-Provo, repeated during their own press conference after Swallow’s Thursday that the committee’s work must and will go forward – until the truth is hammered down and in order to determine if any campaign finance or other laws need to be changed in light of the Swallow scandal.

Swallow denied that he was resigning now as part of a plea deal with the Utah Elections Office’s probe into possible campaign violations.

That probe is separate from the House’s.

And it is possible, even likely, that both probe’s will go forward to some kind of conclusion even though Swallow is out of office.

Swallow said he had not seen the Election Office’s report, supposedly finished Wednesday but not yet made public.

In any case, Swallow said he and his wife of 28 years decided last Sunday that he would resign his office soon.

He said he gave his resignation letter to GOP Gov. Gary Herbert personally Thursday morning.

The Election Office’s special attorney could take that case to a district judge, who in turn could have ruled Swallow’s election invalid.

Swallow would have been out of office, regardless of what the Utah House’s special investigation showed later.

There’s speculation that if a judge ruled Swallow’s election invalid, Democrats could argue that their AG candidate, Dee Smith, won the election – since he got the second-most votes.

And that Swallow was talked into resigning by loyal GOP leaders who didn’t want a Democrat to get that post.

But that is speculation – there are plenty of GOP lawyers who say if a judge ruled the 2012 AG election void, no one is in the office and Herbert appoints a new AG, as is the case now.

James Evans said his Central Committee will meet Dec. 14 and pick three GOP attorneys’ names to send to Herbert, who will chose one to serve until a new AG is elected in the 2014 election.

Again and again Thursday, Swallow denied he had done anything criminal, or even anything unethical.

“I am innocent of all allegations,” said Swallow, who had to pause several times in what appeared to be an attempt to gather his emotions.

“I’ve broken no laws. And I vowed to fight with my very last dollar.”

But Swallow said he has spent around $300,000 of his personal money on his attorneys and didn’t want to become bankrupt.

He also couldn’t stand to see the strain on his family, close friends who have stood by him, and the hardworking, dedicated staff inside the Attorney General’s Office.

And there is no way he could continue fighting against a House investigation that has already spent $1.5 million of taxpayer money, and could spend another $1.5 million.

He just couldn’t “stand strong in the face of fire” anymore, Swallow added.

He said it was a sad day, not just for him, but for anyone who in the future could face the onslaught of the state – and all of its resources.

Swallow also said he and his family no longer could take seeing “50 days” of headlines in local newspapers accusing him of things he didn’t do and wouldn’t do.

Several times Swallow referred to the “frenzy” in the media.

Now, out of office, he said, he can pursue his innocence without such a financial drain and personal public “limelight.”

“Now is the time for the madness to stop.”

But its not exactly clear that it will.

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill said that his joint probe with the Davis County Attorney’s Office, aided by the federal Justice Department (which has closed its criminal investigation of Swallow with no indictments) will continue unabated.

Lockhart and Dunnigan told reporters that, in effect, the special House committee can’t stop its work – because it was ordered to “find out the truth” about the Swallow allegations, make a final report to the House and public, and recommend changes to Utah election law.

The Legislature is not in session, and so the resolution stands, said Lockhart.

(Which brings up an interesting possibility: Will some unhappy Republicans or Democrats, when the Legislature conventions Jan. 27, introduce legislation to stop the spending on Swallow?)

Dunnigan hinted that after he meets with the committee’s special attorney and investigator, the route of the Swallow investigation could sway.

Whether Swallow is in office or not really doesn’t legally affect the House’s investigation, nor the one by the Elections Office, which seems to be winding down anyway.

It’s often the case that election losers are found guilty by the state Elections Office of some campaign violation and required to file an amendment financial statement. At odd times fines are even issued, to former candidates, lobbyists, businesses or PACs, which are also regulated by the office.

Several times Swallow said he really thought he could fight on and prove his innocence.

But then the House’s investigation starting going into places that had nothing to do with originally allegations made against him. He declined to say where those places were – but pointed to a House committee’s meeting where “false” statements were made about lost electronic data on his computers, cell phones and other devices.

He said his office has cooperated at all levels with the House’s investigation, turning over 10,000 documents.

The he-said, she-said can, and likely will, go on for months.

Dunnigan declined to say if the House will spend more money on the committee’s work; wouldn’t even say that his committee won’t spend up to the $3 million estimate previously made.

The Legislature’s chief counsel, John Fellows, said it is clear that the Utah Constitution allows the House to investigate any one or any thing it wishes. And so in strict legal terms Swallows’ resignation doesn’t mean much.

However, Senate Republicans were already grumbling about how much taxpayer money the House is spending on the Swallow probe.

And now that Swallow is gone, any number of legislators – House or Senate – will see this as what should be the end of the whole sordid matter.

Asked what toll this has taken on him, Swallow said he’s basically ruined, but not beaten.

When the same question was put to Dunnigan, who has put in hours and hours of free work by the House committee, he choked up and said all he really wanted was to find the truth, treat Swallow fairly (which he believes his committee has) and do the work House members charged him with.

Swallow said he did make mistakes in judgments – met and worked with people he shouldn’t have, didn’t disclose some items on his campaign reports that, while not legally required, in hindsight may have looked bad, and fell into a political hole that, ultimately, he couldn’t drag himself and his family out of.

Swallow said he has no plans; doesn’t have a job. But added that he loves Utah and its people and wants to do some kind of service in the future.



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