SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A special legislative committee investigating allegations surrounding Attorney General John Swallow has officially kicked off a months-long process that could stretch into next year.
Lawmakers on the fact-finding panel on Tuesday held their first official meeting to review the process for their mission and discuss the potential costs.
Legislative general counsel John Fellows told the committee that the probe may cost as much as $3 million and the committee may not be ready to start calling witnesses until November or December.
Swallow, a Republican, has been dogged by allegations of misconduct since he took office in January. He has denied wrongdoing and says he is confident his name will be cleared by federal and state investigations.
The Utah House of Representatives formed a nine-member committee in July to examine the allegations, saying they needed to determine the facts for themselves.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
A special legislative committee investigating allegations surrounding Attorney General John Swallow is meeting for the first time.
Lawmakers on the fact-finding panel on Tuesday are hashing out the process for their mission and discussing the potential costs.
Swallow, a Republican, has been dogged by allegations of misconduct since he took office in January, including claims that he plotted to bribe U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
Swallow has denied wrongdoing and says he is confident his name will be cleared by federal and state investigations.
House Republicans in July formed a nine-member committee to examine the allegations, saying they needed to determine the facts for themselves. Legislative staff members say the investigation could cost as much as $3 million.
The investigation could be a precursor to a possible impeachment of the state’s top law enforcement officer.
“I ask myself every day, `How did I get into this position?'” Swallow told KSL Radio’s Doug Wright on Tuesday. “I’ve lived an honorable life, I feel like.”
He said everyone who has lodged an allegation against him “has an ax to grind,” from the left-leaning group that filed complaints with the Utah State Bar and state elections office, to businessmen who have been accused or convicted on fraud charges.
Swallow said other agencies are investigating, and he wondered how it got to a point where the Legislature launched its own probe.
“I have a lot of respect for the people who serve there,” Swallow said. “All I can do is respect the process and hope that they will be fair, hope that they won’t delay things more by bumping into other investigations.”
Paul Murphy, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, had no comment before the meeting by the special committee. Swallow’s personal attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The House investigation encountered a hiccup when Republican Rep. Lowry Snow, an attorney from St. George who chairs the committee, was replaced after The Salt Lake Tribune reported he had a potential conflict of interest.
Snow once represented Jeremy Johnson, a Utah businessman who accused Swallow of arranging a bribery plot. Snow’s firm also represents companies on the periphery of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Johnson in Nevada.
Snow agreed to step down to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.
He was replaced as chairman by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Taylorsville Republican on the panel. Dunnigan is one of several lawmakers whittling down a list of law firms vying to work for the committee.
The 10 firms on the list all hail from outside Utah and are expected to be interviewed this week. The contract winner is expected to be announced Friday.