New Attorney General John Swallow calls for investigation of claims against him
Others also calling for probe of allegations made by ex-multimillionaire
Former GOP Congresswoman Enid Greene Mickelsen suggested Monday the creation of a "truly independent investigatory board" made up of a retired judge and people in the legal community who are not politically affiliated. The panel should be given subpoena power to find out exactly what happened and present it to the public.
"This is the top law enforcement officer in the state. It's not just something that can be, 'Oh no, we're not just going to worry about it,''' she said. "There's significant questions here that for John Swallow's sake, if he's completely innocent, he still needs to get these facts out there so people can have confidence in that."
Mickelsen, former Utah GOP vice chairwoman, said her position won't be popular in her party.
"I know I'm going to be on every Republican's hit list, but I don't care," she said.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert's office declined to comment when the story first broke but released a statement Sunday.
"All the governor knows is what he has read in the paper, and it would be irresponsible to arrive at conclusions based only on that alone," said Herbert's spokeswoman, Ally Isom. "The fact is there is a current investigation of Mr. Johnson, and federal agencies are aware of the allegations. This is an instance when facts should not be politicized and process should be followed."
The Provo Daily Herald called for Swallow's resignation in a Sunday editorial.
Alliance for a Better Utah, a Democratic-leaning advocacy group, called Monday for the Utah State Bar to investigate Swallow's activities to determine whether he violated its rules of professional conduct.
"Lawyers self-regulate, making the bar association uniquely positioned to address Swallow's ethical conduct as the state's chief law enforcement officer," said Maryann Martindale, Better Utah executive director.
Both Martindale and Mickelsen said the allegations against Swallow renew the need for the Utah Legislature to review ethics laws — which Mickelsen described as "porous" — for elected officials.
"If we had clearer laws that spelled out these bright lines, we wouldn't be having so many examples of this where it just seems like the public doesn't feel confident, and they have reason not to feel confident," Mickelsen said.
Speculation swirled during the Utah attorney general's race last year that Swallow was the subject of a federal investigation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City took the unusual step of issuing a statement Sunday based on the recent news reports regarding Swallow.
"It has been reported that federal prosecutors informally agreed not to prosecute John Swallow. This assertion is completely untrue," the office said. "This statement does not imply that there is or is not an investigation pending against Mr. Swallow."
The FBI also would not confirm or deny an investigation of Swallow.
In a prepared statement issued late Saturday, Swallow said the FBI has not contacted him about Johnson or Reid, and it hasn't notified him that he is under any investigation. He said he never worried that Johnson was cutting a deal with federal prosecutors.
Johnson placed Swallow's name on a list of people he wanted protected from prosecution should he plead guilty to federal fraud charges. Prosecutors balked at including the names in a proposed plea agreement last Friday and the deal fell apart. Federal authorities said they will now file new criminal charges against Johnson by Feb. 8.
Swallow said he never asked to be on Johnson's list. He said he never talked to federal prosecutors about Johnson's criminal case.
"My attorney also made it very clear to Mr. Johnson's attorney that I did not want to be on any list. Putting my name on the list was another calculated way for Mr. Johnson to draw attention to me and harm me," Swallow said.
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