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John Swallow's outside consulting would be banned under proposed law

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 2:20 p.m. MST

Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks out Jan. 14, 2013, in his office at the state Capitol about allegations that he was involved in improper deals. A new bill would ban the type of consulting work he did while serving as chief deputy attorney general.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — It could come to be known as the Swallow rule.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, introduced legislation Thursday that would ban the type of outside consulting work Utah Attorney General John Swallow did while serving as chief deputy attorney general.

"What Swallow was doing would have been prohibited for rank-and-file members of the A.G.'s office, but because he was a political appointee, he was not held to the same rules as the other attorneys in that office," Weiler said.

"That's a loophole that should be closed. I'm not afraid to admit I, and most of the people I've talked to on Capitol Hill, didn't know that loophole existed."

The bill would do away with the disparity in state policy regarding outside work for career service employees and political appointees, he said.

Asked how much the controversy surrounding Swallow figured into to the proposal, Weiler said, "a lot."

SB83 would restrict outside employment for management-level workers in the state's executive branch, specifically the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and auditor. It would require those offices to have policies to prevent conflicts of interest with employees' job duties, the practice of law and political services, consulting and lobbying.

Weiler said he listed those specific activities "because that's where I think most of the public outcry has been."

Swallow, a Republican who was sworn in as attorney general last month, became embroiled in controversy after St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson claimed he helped set up a $600,000 payment to enlist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in an effort to derail a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Johnson's company.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has confirmed the Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating Swallow.

Swallow has adamantly denied the allegations, saying he only introduced Johnson to the late Richard M. Rawle, who had connections with FTC lobbyists. Swallow worked for Rawle's company, Check City, as a lobbyist and in-house attorney before being appointed chief deputy attorney general in 2009.

While chief deputy, Swallow was a paid consultant on a cement project Rawle had in Nevada.

In an affidavit Swallow released after Johnson's accusations surfaced, Rawle states that he did not pay Swallow for introducing him to Johnson. But he said he paid Swallow $23,500 for consulting work on the cement project in fall 2010 and spring 2011.

On March 15, 2012, Swallow removed himself as manager of the consulting firm P-Solutions, the same day he filed his candidate financial disclosure report in the attorney general's race.

In a Jan. 18 statement, Swallow said his work complied "comfortably" with the policies in the attorney general's office for outside work. He said when he filed to run for attorney general, he was neither a manager nor owner of P-Solutions, and didn't believe it was necessary to list it on his disclosure forms.

Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told the Deseret News last week that he was surprised when Swallow told him about consulting on the Nevada cement plant. He said Swallow didn't violate office policy as he enforced it during his administration but that it wasn't a good idea for Swallow to consult on Rawle's project.

In his current state conflict-of-interest form, Swallow listed himself as the owner of one company, Swallow & Associates. On the line asking for a description of the business or activity, he wrote: "none at present."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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