Utah A.G. John Swallow resigns, citing toll on family, finances

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 10:05 a.m. MST

Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces he will resign effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at a news conference on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General John Swallow announced his resignation Thursday after 10 months of intense public scrutiny that started with an indicted businessman's accusation four days after he took office in January.

His eyes bloodshot, Swallow said the ongoing investigations into his alleged wrongdoing took a toll on him, his family and his finances. In a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert, he said Dec. 2 would be his last day.

Swallow said he doesn't have the money to compete with a Utah House special committee investigation that he contends wants to drive him from office. The House committee has yet to decide what will happen with its investigation.

"Now is the time for the madness to stop and for the state to move forward," Swallow said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

The first-term Republican again proclaimed he has broken no laws and is innocent of all allegations leveled at him. Swallow could still face criminal charges as the result of an ongoing county investigation.

"I believe the things I've done have been cast in the worst possible light, and I maintain that I have been 100 percent ethical and honest in all my dealings," Swallow said.

His resignation came on the day the lieutenant governor's office was expected to release a report saying Swallow violated state election laws and a court should invalidate his November 2012 election. Swallow said he hasn't seen the report and that it didn't factor into his decision. He said he and his wife, Suzanne, decided he would step down last Sunday.

Mark Thomas, chief deputy lieutenant governor and state director of elections, said his office will review the effect Swallow's resignation will have on the ongoing special investigation and "will release the final report once it is complete." That could be as soon as Friday.

A source told the Deseret News that Swallow cut a deal with the lieutenant governor's office to resign in order to avoid facing criminal charges over the elections violations. According to a source in the lieutenant governor's office, that assertion is "factually incorrect" and state law allows only for civil sanctions.

Swallow said at his news conference that he didn't make any deals.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Swallow “indirectly” approached him several times over the past few days. Niederhauser said he understood he was being asked “to do some negotiating” to stop the House investigation.

“I can only assume they were saying to themselves, ‘I want to resign, but I want to strike a deal before,’” Niederhauser said. “I think he had decided he was going to resign and he wanted to button up as many things as he could before he resigned. That would only be smart of him. … You’re in office. That’s one of the cards you hold.”

The Senate president said he sent Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, to meet with Swallow and his attorney Wednesday. “The message sent back with Bramble was, ‘If you’re going to resign, resign. Don’t prolong this out.’”

Bramble said Swallow wanted to know how the Senate would react if he resigned as of the end of the year. “The reaction was, ‘If you’re going to resign, you need to resign immediately,’” Bramble said. “There was no deal cutting.”

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she “spoke with no one about any kind of potential deal or talks” with Swallow.

“I’m not going to make a judgment on that. I’m just going to tell you as speaker of the House, I have an obligation to the House and to the people,” Lockhart said.

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