SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday that will grant power to the committee charged with investigating Attorney General John Swallow.
The legislature passed House Bills 1001 through 1003 during a special legislative session in an effort to give the impeachment committee investigation powers that are uncharted territory in Utah. HB1001 was the most controversial bill; several motions were raised to amend it, but all failed.
HB1001 modifies the circumstances for a special investigative committee to hold a closed meeting, allows the committee to protect documents brought into the investigation and grants power to issue subpoenas.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, spoke out against HB1001, arguing that lawmakers should hold hearings to set the standards the attorney general would be held against.
“In defining the standard, if the subject of this investigation violates the standard, then he should be removed from office,” Ivory said. “The problem we have is we’ve not bothered to define the standard, so we’re taking up a bazooka to shoot at a fly.”
A couple other representatives rose against the notion that an investigation involving public trust would be held behind closed doors, but in the end, the House heard and defeated all motions to amend the measure.
Two other bills were also passed that widened the committee’s power to investigate Swallow.
HB1002 states that “provisions of court rule that authorize the practice of law without a license under certain circumstances are an exception to the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law.”
HB1003 allows the “issuance of a limited-use license to provide private investigator or private detective services to a special investigative committee or a legislative body for a purpose relating to impeachment.”
Swallow is under investigation on federal, state and county levels. He faces several allegations, including claims that he aided in an arrangement to help accused businessman Jeremy Johnson evade a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission, participated in an attempt to bribe Nev. Senator Harry Reid (D) and received unethical gifts. Swallow denies any wrongdoing.
About 80 percent of Utahns believe Swallow should resign and more than 70 percent said the House should begin an impeachment process according to a poll conducted in June by BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart appointed five Republicans and four Democrats to the special committee. While Lockhart believes that party loyalties will not play a role, state Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis told the Salt Lake Tribune that giving Republicans an edge shows the GOP “chose control, power and partisanship” over fairness.
Republican Rep. Lowry Snow will head the special committee. Republicans assigned to the investigation are, Rep. Lowry Snow, House Majority Leader Brad Dee, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, Rep. Lee Perry and Rep. Mike McKell. Democrats on the committee are House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Rep. Lynn Hemingway and Rep. Susan Duckworth.