House Speaker Becky Lockhart to decide whether to keep chairman of Swallow committee
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart will decide this week whether to keep the chairman of a newly appointed committee investigating Attorney General John Swallow.
Lockhart, R-Provo, met with Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, on Monday to discuss legal work he and his firm have done for indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson and his former business partners. Johnson is one of Swallow's chief accusers.
The speaker will decide in the next day or two whether to have Snow continue as chairman, said her spokesman Joe Pyrah.
Earlier, Snow said Lockhart did not ask him about any potential conflicts of interest before naming him chairman. He said their conversation was brief and that it didn't come up.
Snow said he doesn't believe his ties to Johnson would hinder his ability to serve as chairman. He said he would step down if the speaker believes there is a conflict.
Also, the lieutenant governor's office intends to appoint special counsel Tuesday to investigate whether Swallow violated state campaign finance laws. A complaint alleges he failed to disclose his involvement in a consulting firm and that he made false and misleading statements about his financial condition on campaign disclosure forms.
Fourteen law firms or lawyers submitted bids for the job.
This is the lieutenant governor's first experience with choosing special counsel. State lawmakers rushed to change a law on the last day of the legislative session this year that required alleged election code violations to be referred to the attorney general for investigation. The revision allows the office to appoint special counsel.
Lockhart appointed a nine-member special investigative committee last week to gather facts about allegations of wrongdoing swirling around the attorney general. The committee will issue a report of its finding, but not make recommendations on impeachment. Its first meeting will be in early August.
A 2008 civil lawsuit lists Snow as the attorney for several defendants, including Johnson. Snow said he doesn't recall directly representing Johnson. But he filed a motion to get Johnson dismissed from the case in January 2011, according to court records.
Snow's firm, Snow Jensen & Reece, also represents Liahona Academy, a school for troubled boys that had its assets frozen in the Federal Trade Commission case against Johnson. Two of Johnson's former business partners who are part of the FTC case were involved with the school.
Snow said although he is the attorney of record, his partner has done most of the work for Liahona.
In addition to the FTC complaint alleging Johnson's online sales company bilked consumers of hundreds of millions of dollars, he and four associates were charged with fraud in an 86-count criminal indictment.
Johnson claims Swallow helped broker a deal to bribe a U.S. senator in hopes of thwarting the FTC investigation that led to Johnson's business being shut down in 2011.
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