Lt. Gov. won't pursue civil complaint against Utah Attorney General John Swallow
SALT LAKE CITY — The state elections office will not seek a civil complaint against Utah Attorney General John Swallow but will make its report available for other investigations for any possible criminal charges.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday the statutory remedy for state election law violations was already met with Swallow's decision to resign.
"We have prosecuted this to the extent that we can," Cox said. "I don't know much more that we can do."
If a court were to find that Swallow, a first-term Republican, broke the election code, a judge would void the election and declare the office vacant. Cox said the court process would take about six months and cost more than $200,000.
Cox said he can't find anywhere in state law that would allow a special election to replace Swallow, as Democrats have called for.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis backed off that position Wednesday after a Republican state senator suggested that Gov. Gary Herbert appoint a caretaker as attorney general who won't seek election in 2014.
"We're obviously concerned with the findings of the report," Cox said. He said he will make the report available to ongoing investigations by two county attorneys and the Utah House special committee.
Alleged elections violations are not part of the joint county investigation, but Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings want to look at the report.
"We will see exactly where it fits into our ongoing criminal investigation that we have currently open," he said.
Gill estimated the investigation, conducted with help from the FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety, is 50 percent complete.
It doesn't appear, however, that the Utah House committee will continue its work. Chairman Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the nine-member panel plans to meet Dec. 7 to discuss "winding down."
Last Thursday, Swallow announced his resignation effective Dec. 3 at 12:01 a.m., citing the strain that the Utah House special committee investigation was having on him, his family and his finances. That committee is conducting a broad inquiry into various allegations leveled at Swallow and will recommend changes to state election law.
The state elections office released its report the day after Swallow made his announcement, outlining five instances of probable cause that Swallow violated campaign finance reporting law.
The special counsel found that Swallow failed to disclose that he received income totaling $58,117 from Check City, P-Solutions, Guidant Strategies and RMR Consulting. He also omitted his role as manager of SSV Management and P-Solutions, a limited liability company and a consulting firm, respectively.
The omissions were "planned and deliberate" on two separate campaign filings — one on March 9, 2012, and the other March 15, 2012, according to the report.
The nearly four-month investigation found conflicts between Swallow's statements and the evidence, saying "implausible explanations raise questions and suspicions about his credibility."
Swallow didn't fully cooperate with the investigation and tried to influence the outcome by altering witness statements, the report said.
The state Republican Party intends to hold a Central Committee meeting Dec. 14 to choose three nominees for Herbert's consideration to replace Swallow. The governor's choice would face election in 2014.
Cox said that according to state law, that process would be the same whether Swallow resigned or a court removed him from office.
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