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GOP lawmakers to discuss Swallow impeachment at June meeting

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 7:57 p.m. MDT

Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks with reporters after appearing on "The Doug Wright Show" in Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Attorney General John Swallow speaks with reporters after appearing on "The Doug Wright Show" in Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — An informal poll about whether to start impeachment proceedings against embattled Attorney General John Swallow is circulating among Utah House members.

Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, said he received a telephone call this week from a House colleague, whom he declined to identify, asking his thoughts about impeachment. Others were also receiving calls, Kennedy said.

"It sounded like they were going through the process of talking to a variety of people for whatever reason," he said.

Kennedy subsequently posed the impeachment question to his constituents on Facebook. As of Thursday afternoon, he had 30 comments ranging from "Do it, do it today" to "Not in favor. Let the investigation proceed to its conclusions."

"Clearly, people are interested in this," he said. "There are concerns that people have."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said there is no "informal legitimate poll" going on. But lawmakers are talking to each other to get a sense of where they're at and what they need to make a decision, she said.

But House Republicans will formally discuss impeachment next month.

House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, informed them in an email Wednesday that the June 19 caucus would be devoted to the issue. Lockhart said she also will be sending them more information over the next few weeks, describing it as "procedural and philosophical based on what's out there in terms of what impeachment means."

Swallow, a first-term Republican, is under investigation on several fronts in connection with a number of allegations, including that he helped broker a deal for an indicted St. George businessman attempting to derail a federal investigation into his company.

Federal investigators are looking into the alleged deal, as well as allegations that Swallow promised special consideration to three telemarketers in exchange for contributions to former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's re-election campaign.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings are jointly investigating whether Swallow and Shurtleff broke any state laws.

The Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office is in the process of appointing special counsel to examine allegations that Swallow violated state elections laws.

Swallow spokesman Paul Murphy said any talk of impeachment is premature.

"Let the facts come out. Let due process takes its course," he said. "A rush to judgement based on people who have made outlandish lies is a bad way to run government."

Under Utah law, impeachment must be initiated in the House. The Senate acts as judge and jury.

Kennedy said he's not ready to say yes or no to impeachment at this point.

"I don't believe I have enough information to make a decision," he said.

At the same time, he said lawmakers can't get at the facts without initiating the process. Kennedy said he favors Lockhart appointing a committee to gather evidence and present its findings to the House for a decision on whether to go forward.

From what he knows, Kennedy said Swallow apparently hasn't used the best judgment.

"Integrity is the currency of the Legislature," he said. And in his own profession as a doctor, Kennedy said, his reputation is based on being honorable and "clear and careful about what I do."

In Swallow's case, he said, "there's clearly a concern that the currency has been questioned."

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, last week became the first GOP lawmaker to publicly call for Swallow's resignation. But he backed off Tuesday, saying the attorney general should take a paid leave of absence while the investigations run their course.

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