Representative Brian King (D, SLC), sent an email to all 75 members of the Utah House of Representatives this afternoon, which included a draft of a resolution he has opened to begin the impeachment investigation of scandal-laden Attorney General John Swallow.
The resolution goes to great lengths to list most of the allegations that have been made against the Attorney General, including improper or possibly illegal campaign contributions, promoting illegal businesses, facilitating an attempted bribe, accepting lavish gifts from people under investigation by his office, and filing false campaign disclosures, among other things.
It’s interesting to note that King’s resolution includes references to many things that happened while Swallow was serving as the Chief Deputy Attorney General, before he was elected as the Attorney General this past November.
The email also makes a request that the Republican House Caucus cancel their plan to meet privately to discuss Swallow this week, but rather meet as a full House so the Democrats and the public can attend. There has been much speculation that the Republicans could decide to move forward with the impeachment at the upcoming meeting, and some House Republican members, which King references in his email, have even been in the media saying that they must get the full two-thirds required votes to impeach Swallow without the Democrats, otherwise the Dems will be able to campaign on the issue in 2014.
If the legislature decides to proceed with Representative King’s resolution, the impeachment process involves a public investigation of wrongdoings, conducted by lawmakers. They would be able to call witnesses, issue subpoenas, and gather evidence. After their investigation, they will decide whether or not to impeach. If two-thirds vote in favor of impeachment, the process then moves to the Utah Senate, who will conduct the actual impeachment trial.
Just a few days ago a letter came to light, written by Swallow and his attorneys to the Utah Legislature, claiming that it would be illegal for them to impeach him before he is convicted of a crime. However, UPC’s search of Utah Supreme Court rulings revealed that was not true.
See below the full email and the draft resolution:
We’ve all received comments from friends and constituents about what, if anything, the House should do about allegations that have been raised regarding Attorney General Swallow. I have concerns about the direction I see the House going and want to share them with each of you and ask that you join me in addressing them.
The Attorney General holds a position of great public trust. He is Utah chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer. His actions must reflect the highest ethical and moral standards and be free from personal, financial, or political motives. Acting as a fiduciary for all Utahns, he must be above self-interest or loyalty to any person or group other than the citizens of the State as a whole. As such, I think we all agree the allegations made against Mr. Swallow and Mr. Shurtleff are troubling.
I appreciate the fact that the Speaker has emailed us on several occasions with information to help us get up to speed on the process for considering and discussing where we go from here. I know she shares my desire that we have integrity in the process we use to consider this matter. Like the Attorney General, we all hold positions of public trust. I believe our constituents expect us to act according to the highest ethical and moral standards as we engage in the process of considering what to do with the allegations surrounding the Attorney General. It is our duty to do so. As we evaluate his behavior, we must ensure that the process we put in place reflects what we expect of him: it must be above personal or self-interested motives. It must be above reproach. The Speaker has stated that impeachment is a political, rather than a criminal, process and she is right. But we must travel that road in a way that is above partisan politics.
With those thoughts as context, here are my concerns. I have read in many media sources for several weeks references to the House Republicans committing their upcoming caucus meeting on Wednesday, June 19th, to discussing the Attorney General situation. I have not heard or seen anything indicating that the Democrats in the House have been invited to that discussion. Rather, I have read comments reported in the media from one or more House Republicans that suggest they view the prospective House Republican caucus discussion as a way to effectively preempt any involvement by the Democrats in the House from considering how to deal with the allegations concerning Attorney General Swallow. For example, in Bob Bernick’s article in Utah Policy on Tuesday, June 11th, he quotes an unnamed Republican House member talking about the importance of the Republican House caucus getting 50 votes (the 2/3rds necessary to trigger the call for a special session) to start the impeachment process because “. . . it wouldn’t look good in the 2014 elections if Democratic legislative candidates can brag about they being the ones who really impeached Swallow–that Republicans were divided and weak-kneed.” http://bit.ly/195hTRC.
The Bernick article goes on to make clear that the Speaker rejects the idea that partisan politics should govern what happens in our process: “ours is a public trust not a trust in one party or another.” My concern is that by holding a House Republican caucus meeting to discuss this on our interim meeting day this week, the process degenerates into a partisan exercise rather than one that considers the input of all House representatives equally.
The Attorney General may be a Republican. But he’s my AG as well as the AG of every one of my constituents and every one of your constituents, regardless of which party they belong to or whether they belong to any party at all. As the Representative of my constituents, my voice should be heard and considered in the same way, in the same contemporaneous discussion, with the same opportunity to comment and respond to comments, as the Republican members of the House in the discussions slated to be carried on Wednesday.
My request is that we meet on Wednesday, June 19, at noon as a full House of Representatives to discuss this matter. John Fellows, our General Counsel, has informed me that so long as that meeting complies with the Open Meetings Act by providing the required notice and the opportunity for the public to attend and we take no official action as a body, nothing prevents all 75 Representatives from meeting Wednesday to discuss the issues surrounding Attorney General Swallow. Part of that discussion would involve whether a basis exists for either investigating the Attorney General or initiating impeachment proceedings in a more formal manner.
In the event we decide to either investigate or go directly to articles of impeachment, I’ve attached a protected draft Resolution I’ve prepared that outlines my thoughts on those matters. I believe we need to be prepared to move forward in our deliberations. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this Resolution and your co-sponsorship of this bill.
Deciding whether the House takes action against our Attorney General is a difficult thing. I appreciate the Speaker’s excellent work in preparing us for that task. I’m confident that if we work together to develop and adhere to a process that rises above partisanship, we can carry out our work effectively and in a way that demonstrates to our constituents that we are upholding our oaths of office.
Representative Brian King