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Attorney General John Swallow investigative committee faces daunting job

Panel chief has ties to indicted businessman Johnson

Published: Thursday, July 18 2013 6:17 p.m. MDT

His office and the committee are conducting two distinct inquiries and reviews, Gill said, adding his focus is narrow, while the Legislature's is broad.

"Our role is fundamentally different because we have very specific criteria. We look for statutory violations. We look for different kinds of evidence," Gill said, noting mere allegations do not rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing.

University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said the legislative committee's work won't be easy or elegant.

One of the big concerns is conducting an inquiry as openly as possible while other investigations, which are not intended to be public, are going on, Burbank said.

"The problem here is you get the same pool of people, so it creates real difficulties in terms of who talks to which witness in which fashion and how public is it. That's going to take a fair amount of juggling," he said.

In a letter to legislative leaders this week, Swallow's attorneys asked that he be allowed to subpoena witnesses on his behalf and be present when lawmakers take witness statements or sworn testimony.

Lockhart said Congress does not afford that ability to subjects of its inquiries. "This is a legislative investigation, and we will conduct it as such," she said.

The letter also argues that the investigation runs counter to the Utah Constitution, an assertion with which Lockhart said she "absolutely and unequivocally" disagrees.

Lockhart described the investigative committee's role as fact finding. It has subpoena power and may grant immunity to witnesses. It intends to hire attorneys and investigators in the next few weeks.

Although the panel will reports its findings to the House, it will not a make a recommendation about impeachment proceedings.

The speaker appointed five Republicans and four Democrats to the committee, with Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, as chairman. Snow, a past president of the Utah State Bar, is one of two attorneys on the panel.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis questions whether the Republican-controlled committee can be trusted to do a fair job.

"It seems clear that the Republican supermajority is more interested in keeping their control than in restoring the sense of fairness and integrity that has obviously been lacking," said Dabakis, who also serves as a state senator from Salt Lake City. "This partisan committee, and how it was made up, can give Utahns little confidence that all the members of the legislature consider their constitutional duties ahead of their political consideration."

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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