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Gov. Gary Herbert said the other day that if Attorney General John Swallow were his employee, he would have fired him by now.

Of course he would have. The scandals swirling around both the current attorney general and his predecessor and mentor, Mark Shurtleff, have brought forth a drumbeat of allegations of slimy deals and sleazy meetings with people who were, for good reason, under investigation. If Swallow were a member of Herbert's staff, he would be even more of a distraction from the business of governing than he is now. So much so that Herbert would have been forced to sack him — or, perhaps more gently, regretfully accept his resignation — if the governor were to have half of chance of getting his own work done.

The point is, of course, that Swallow doesn't work for Herbert. He works for the people of Utah.

The question is, has he ever realized that? Or does he really see himself as in the employ of the various high-rolling businessmen who have provided Swallow and Shurtleff with not only many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions but also a long list of perks and favors. Those baubles ranged from rides in expensive sports cars and private jets to visits to tony resorts, with the tab picked up by people who were eager to please Swallow and Shurtleff because they faced prison time for alleged fraudulent business practices.

Every time Swallow opens his mouth to talk about it, which isn't often, he makes it worse.

"What happened to me could happen to anybody," the attorney general said in a statement released Tuesday.

To anybody who had the power to reward or punish campaign donors by protecting them from criminal and civil investigations if they came across with money, or to unleash the power of the state on them if they didn't play ball.

"Why would you step down from a duly elected office when two-thirds of the people of Utah elected you because of your vision and your platform," Swallow said Wednesday.

Two-thirds of the people of Utah couldn't recite Swallow's platform and vision if you offered them a weekend at a California resort.

Swallow's real employers, the people of Utah, by and through their elected representatives in the Legislature, will start the process of evaluating their employee at caucuses set for next Wednesday. If Swallow cannot see just how wounded and ineffective he has become, those representatives may soon have no choice but to begin impeachment proceedings.

Those proceedings should be careful, open and as specific as possible. But the time has come.

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