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Democrats call for legislative hearings into state executive scandals

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 5:35 p.m. MDT

State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said two GOP officials, Attorney General John Swallow and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, have been identified as the subjects of ongoing investigations. But Dabakis, also a state senator, said there's the possibility that list could grow if the Republican-controlled Legislature agrees to convene hearings into the allegations against Swallow and Bell.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Democrats called Friday for legislative hearings into scandals surrounding some of the state's top elected officials.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said two GOP officials, Attorney General John Swallow and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, have been identified as the subjects of ongoing investigations.

But Dabakis, also a state senator, said there's the possibility that list could grow if the Republican-controlled Legislature agrees to convene hearings into the allegations against Swallow and Bell.

Swallow is the subject of federal, state and local investigations regarding his dealings with an indicted businessman who attempted to influence Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as well as potential election and ethical violations.

Authorities are also looking into allegations that Bell interfered with a child welfare case allegedly involving the daughter of one of his friends by commissioning an audit of the case.

Dabakis said unlike the investigations, legislative hearings would be held "in full public view, so the people of Utah can learn more about the allegations, hear the responses and understand for themselves what is happening to Utah's highest offices."

State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, deemed the call for legislative hearings as political "chest thumping" aimed at bringing more attention to the issues.

"We're not an investigative body. We're a lawmaking body," the Sandy Republican said.

Niederhauser said if there were more information available, the Senate might consider holding hearings.

"But at this point, all we have is allegations and we have an investigation going on," he said.

Senate leaders also said the Legislature created an ethics panel this year where complaints against the state's top executives may be lodged.

While there has been talk among lawmakers about whether Swallow should be subject to impeachment, Dabakis said that's not what he's seeking with the call for legislative hearings.

"The issue isn’t impeachment here. It’s just getting the facts," the Democratic leader said, describing the hearings as "an inquiry to see whether there is justification or not for impeachment."

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