Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Violating the Public Trust

It seems the Salt Lake County/Davis County attorneys’ investigations of former Utah attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff are winding down.


Federal, state and local law officers “raided” the two men’s homes this past week, apparently looking for evidence.

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings really do have to bring their work to a head – either indict these two men (and any others criminally associated with them) or end these costly investigations with no charges.

The longer Democrat Gill — who may face a tough re-election this year – continues to put off a decision, the more political it will appear.

(Rawlings, a Republican, is unopposed in his county re-election.)

Swallow is remaining silent these days.

But Shurtleff is speaking out, including telling The Salt Lake Tribune that he has “found out” more details about Swallow’s actions (some of which concerning fundraising for Shurtleff) and that he – Shurtleff – is “very, very disappointed” in Swallow.

No kidding?

Was he disappointed in Swallow when the two of them were living the high life at a swank California resort on the tab of a man being investigated for fraud?

A month ago UtahPolicy ran a story quoting a source close to the investigators saying felony charges would soon be filed against the pair.

We received some complaints for that story both from other politicians and local journalists.

Now Shurtleff is saying he expects to have charges filed against him. He maintains he will be found innocent – and that those persecuting him today may find themselves in the law’s eyes later on.

If anything, says Shurtleff, he was too open in the way he ran his office for 12 years – maintaining an “open door” policy where he would meet with anyone, even those who later may find themselves in trouble the AG’s office and Utah law.

High public officers – especially prosecuting attorneys – need to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing, or questionable ethical behavior.

If innocent of all else, clearly Shurtleff and Swallow failed to make that bar.

With more than 30 years of covering politics and politicians in this state, it still amazes me that lawyer/politicians see their behavior as “not violating the law,” rather than “not violating the public trust.”

There is a difference. A huge difference.

Will Swallow and Shurteff be charged?

In his own case, Shurtleff now says yes.

If that is so, then Gill and Rawlings need to act soon.

Let the speculation end.

And let the legal proceedings – if that is to be – begin.

On another topic, state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, was given an hour on KUER radio this past week to pontificate on his conspiracy theories concerning financial troubles at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Dabakis has begun a public campaign to “Save the Tribune.”

Early in the interview, he took after UtahPolicy and owner/publisher LaVarr Webb and Managing Editor Bryan Schott – at one point calling Schott a liar. Those two good men decided not to respond.

I was not mentioned. But if you have an interest in what Dabakis is really up to, read a blog Schott wrote earlier. Here is the link. It is self-explanatory.