Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic lawmakers want the Utah Legislature to investigate allegations swirling around embattled Attorney General John Swallow.
The five Democrats in the 29-member Senate sent a letter Monday to Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, urging them place the issue on the Government Operations Interim Committee agenda in July.
"This is not about impeachment. What this is about is the public has a right to know what is going on," said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.
Davis said the committee, comprised of Senate and House members from both parties, would decide how to conduct the investigation, but he anticipates it would be much like a legislative hearing.
Niederhauser said a legislative committee meeting isn't the proper forum for that discussion.
"(The letter) misses the point of the impeachment process and maybe would create some confusion if we dive into that," he said. "We have to be careful that we don't do stuff today that we will regret tomorrow."
Impeachment begins in the House, which may create a special committee that could subpoena and examine witnesses, documents and other materials. The Senate would act as judge and jury if the House were to advance articles of impeachment.
Majority Republicans in the House plan to discuss impeachment in a June 19 caucus meeting.
"It seems like we ought to see what the House is doing before we make any decisions on any committee agenda," Niederhauser said.
A committee hearing outside the impeachment process could hinder the Senate's ability to be impartial, he said.
House Democrats also want an investigation into Swallow and impeachment proceedings if necessary.
House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, said legislators must hold the interests of their constituents above all else and have the constitutional authority and responsibility to hold fellow elected officials accountable.
"It is for these reasons, and for others that have become increasingly apparent in recent weeks, that our caucus has determined it is time for the Utah House of Representatives to initiate an investigation regarding the alleged ethical indiscretions of John Swallow, prior to and after his election as Utah’s attorney general," Seelig said in a statement Monday.
Swallow is the subject of federal and local investigations involving his relationship with several business owners, including allegations that he helped broker a deal for an indicted St. George Internet marketer attempting to stop a federal probe into his company. The lieutenant governor's office is appointing special counsel to look into alleged state election law violations.
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