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What’s All This Talk About Impeachment?

June 21, 2013

On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the Utah legislature held its interim committee meetings.  The committee hearings, however, were not the topic that generated the most interest at the Capitol.  Almost daily for months the media has barraged us with allegations about Utah Attorney General John Swallow.  For my part, I can say I’m very concerned about the allegations and the loss of public trust.  I have spent many hours studying the rules and precedent of impeachment and the allegations against Mr. Swallow. I am convinced the allegations have enough merit to warrant a deeper look by the Legislature.  The top law enforcement official in our state should be above reproach.  But it is imperative that we take this process very cautiously.

Thus far the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, the Salt Lake County Attorney, the Davis County Attorney, the Lt. Governor’s Office, and the Utah State Bar are carrying out investigations. I won’t go into the various allegations, but you can read about them here:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/56465375-90/jenson-swallow-shurtleff-attorney.html.csp

http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/  or http://sutherlandinstitute.org/news/files/2013/06/AG-infographic6-19.jpg

http://hollyonthehill.com/john-swallow-and-a-timeline/

http://www.electspencercox.com/2013/05/31/the-i-word-utahs-attorney-general-and-the-truth-about-impeachment/

http://www.senatesite.com/home/impartial/

http://hollyonthehill.com/high-crimes-and-misdemeanors/

http://www.publiusonline.com/there-is-zero-chance-that-john-swallow-will-resign-unless/

Some are calling for the Attorney General to step down, but he has stated that he will not resign.  And I believe him.   Utah doesn’t have a recall provision as some other states.  But we do have an impeachment process that is similar to the process at the federal level.  Utah has never held impeachment proceedings and thus the process is totally untested with no precedents for us to follow.

The process would start in the Utah House of Representatives, after a resolution of impeachment is filed.  That would trigger the Speaker of the House to poll the members to see if two-thirds (50 of 75) are in favor of convening.  If two-thirds vote in favor of any article of impeachment (the political equivalent of an indictment), then that would trigger the next phase where the Senate joins the process.

The target of the proceedings would be suspended from office (probably with pay) while the Senate conducts a trial and renders a judgment.  In the simplest terms, it is the duty of the House to investigate and the duty of the Senate to conduct the trial.

Proceeding with an impeachment would result in the Attorney General continuing to be headline news for many more months.  The trust and respect for that office, and likely others as well, would likely erode as the nitty-gritty details are laid bare for examination. There is also a financial cost. The Legislature would have to come back into session, likely for a month.  Legislative staff and attorneys would be called back into action and perhaps specialized attorneys or consultants would also be hired to assist in the process.  The cost estimates range from $2 – $4 million. These are expenses that State did not budget for and are funds that nearly everyone could put to a higher and better use. On the other hand, there is a cost to doing nothing. The loss of public trust is irreplaceable.  Our system works in part due to trust in the officials and actions of those that govern.

On Wednesday, June 19th, the House GOP caucus recommended that an investigatory committee be created to determine what relevant facts exist regarding any potential illegal or UNETHICAL actions of the AG.  Of the 75 members of the House of Representatives, approximately 70 have voted in favor of investigating the AG.  Although this investigation will not be labeled as an impeachment investigation, I see this as a first step to determine whether impeachment proceedings will begin.

The House is beginning their own investigation because allegations against Mr. Swallow are serious. There is a lot of conjecture and the source of much of the information is the media and indicted individuals or convicted felons.  Not all of the media reports are accurate.  Although some have argued that the House should wait until the criminal investigations are concluded, the consensus was that there is a big difference between unethical actions and illegal actions. Also, there is no guarantee that any of the investigating organizations will timely complete their investigations or publicly share their findings.  Here are some links about the House caucus:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56482905-78/impeachment-swallow-committee-investigation.html.csp

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765632441/House-GOP-stops-short-of-starting-impeachment-proceedings-against-Swallow-votes-for-investigation.html

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From → 2013 Interim

One Comment
  1. Ann Richardson permalink

    I appreciate the due diligence you are giving this serious matter.

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