Gov. Gary Herbert: Swallow resignation 'no cause for jubilation'

Published: Friday, Nov. 22 2013 11:10 a.m. MST

Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow announces his resignation at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

PROVO — Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday while "there's no cause for jubilation" over John Swallow's resignation, the attorney general made the right decision to leave office.

"I wish him well. I'm sure it's a tough decision for him to make. But I think it is the right thing to do," the governor told reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

Herbert said the attorney general, whose last day is Dec. 2, told him privately that he "was sorry for all the trouble that he had caused, that he didn't mean it to be a problem and it was just time for him to step aside."

In that meeting, which the attorney general said took place Wednesday evening, the governor said Swallow "recognized he'd become a distraction that was making it difficult for his own office to function as well as it could function."

Herbert, who was out of town when Swallow announced his resignation Thursday, said again the attorney general would have been let go had he worked in the governor's office for violating the office's ethical standards.

His becoming "dysfunctional and a distraction" also would have been a problem, Herbert said. "But you know, the legal issues and the investigations, that's something else entirely and something he had to weigh and decide on his own."

The governor had little to say about the report released Friday by the lieutenant governor's office citing five election law violations by Swallow that could be referred to a court.

"I've purposely stayed out of any investigation," Herbert said. "So I really don't know what's in there. I've heard what's been rumored about."

He said there were "no deals" made in exchange for Swallow's resignation.

Swallow said Friday before the report was made public that he complied with state election laws during his 2012 campaign and is ready to defend himself in court.

But now that he has resigned, he said he believes the case will go away.

Swallow acknowledged that the lieutenant governor's office could refer the findings of its investigation to a county attorney for possible criminal charges, which he referred to as class B or class C misdemeanors.

"If it's recommended to be looked at by a county attorney, that doesn't mean it's a charge," he said on KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show."

"Yes, they may think John Swallow is a jaywalker," he said.

Swallow say he did everything right on his campaign finance and conflict of interest forms when he filed to run for attorney general in 2012.

"If they disagree, that's something we're going to talk about in court," he said.

Swallow said he's frustrated that people think he resigned because he "was somehow afraid of something."

He said he told Herbert and the governor's chief of staff, Derek Miller, in a meeting Wednesday night that he planned to step down. He said the governor told him it was Swallow's decision.

"No one high up in the government, no one in the (Republican) party ever asked me to resign," Swallow said.

During his hourlong interview with Wright, Swallow said many of the same things he told reporters at a news conference announcing his departure Thursday. He said he stepped down due to the strain that the ongoing investigations were having on him, his family and his finances. He also again proclaimed his innocence.

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