Report: Attorney General John Swallow violated Utah election laws

Published: Friday, Nov. 22 2013 12:25 p.m. MST

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

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General John Swallow purposefully omitted nearly $60,000 of income and roles in several companies from his candidate financial disclosures, according to a state elections office report.

And despite his repeated assertions that he fully cooperated with the investigation, Swallow's participation was "inconsistent," and he altered witness statements to try to influence the course of the investigation.

The elections office released a 136-page report Friday, saying its special counsel found sufficient evidence that Swallow violated financial disclosure and conflict of interest laws in his 2012 campaign.

"There are numerous inconsistencies between Swallow's testimony and other evidence, as well as apparent implausible explanations that raise suspicions about his credibility," the report says.

The special counsel also said Swallow and his attorneys tried to control and influence their investigation.

"Most significantly, we learned that Swallow and his lawyers attempted to alter the summaries of our interviews with witnesses by adding and subtracting language from witness statements we prepared and asked the witnesses to review, modify and sign," according to the report.

Swallow announced his resignation at a news conference Thursday, saying his last day in office will be Dec. 2.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has not decided whether he will turn the report over to a court in light of the attorney general's resignation.

"I will take the next few days to carefully evaluate the full report and determine how to proceed," Cox said in a statement.

Under the law, a judge could void Swallow's election and declare the office vacant.

Whether a judge vacates the office or Swallow, a Republican, resigns, the GOP Central Committee will choose three names for the governor to consider as a replacement, said Mark Thomas, state elections director.

The Republican selected would face election in 2014 to fill the remainder of Swallow's four-year term.

Utah Democrats are taking issue with the process, contending Swallow cheated and shouldn't have been on last November's ballot.

"The law is clear. If a candidate cheats, the election is invalid," said state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis.

Dabakis, a state senator, said voters should elect the next attorney general, "not the same delegates who are responsible for John Swallow and this mess in the first place."

Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said the findings should go to the courts and the investigation should continue to its legal conclusion. She said there might be other applicable laws that could result in fines, other penalties or even criminal charges.

If Cox doesn't forward the report, Martindale said Better Utah would look into ways to get it before a judge itself.

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said in a statement that they intend to review the report as part of their broader ongoing investigation into Swallow with the Utah Department or Public Safety and the FBI.

Better Utah filed the elections complaint against Swallow in March, alleging 12 violations of state law. The elections office dismissed nine counts in May but said three called for further investigation.

The lieutenant governor's office hired the law firm of Snell & Wilmer to conduct an investigation into all the claims. Thomas said the report cost about $200,000.

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