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Editorial: Legislative panel should keep after Swallow's computer records

Published November 5, 2013 7:50 am

Panel should keep on searching
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

[Question: Will the marketing people at Apple like, or dislike, the fact that Utah Attorney General John Swallow, in claiming that his office has accidentally lost a slew of computer records and emails sought by those investigating his dealings with questionable businesses, is pictured with one of their machines?]

Legislative investigators looking into the sleazy dealings of Attorney General John Swallow — trying to determine if those dealings are sleazy enough to deserve impeachment — must spare no expense in extracting whatever information can be found in the computers belonging to the attorney general and his office.

Apparently channeling Rose Mary Woods, the loyal secretary who tried to take the rap for erasing the infamous 18½-minute gap in Richard Nixon's secret tapes, Swallow's office has informed the special committee of the Utah Legislature that many of the emails and calendar entries investigators need have disappeared. It has further informed the investigators that nobody intended to erase or delete any information. It just happened. And it has further informed investigators that the attorney general's office opposes planned efforts to use high-tech methods of searching old hard drives and servers on the flimsy grounds that those memory banks also contain some personal health information.

Those grounds are flimsy because nobody is asking Swallow or his aides to dump the whole contents of their office computers and cell phones onto Wikileaks. The panel does not want, and can be trusted not to fool with, anybody's medical records.

Investigators do want, and have gone to court to compel, the recovery of the allegedly lost data and the opportunity to examine it for any evidence that Swallow engaged in illegal or unethical behavior in helping businesses who were under state and federal investigation to shake off those probes. In return for campaign donations and/or personal favors.

And, of course, the investigation now includes not only the conduct that might be illuminated by those missing records, but also the matter of whether anyone deliberately deleted those files. That, if it happened, is a whole new set of potential violations.

Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, have denied all wrongdoing. And a federal probe into Swallow's dealings has already closed with no charges to be filed. But two Utah prosecutors, Salt Lake County's Sim Gill and Davis County's Troy Rawlings, are still looking into the details. And still have the assistance of FBI agents in their probes.

What remains particularly maddening about the whole affair is the fact that the conduct Swallow has admitted to — meeting with businessmen who were under federal investigations, offering them assistance in influencing other public officials — is enough to justify Swallow's resignation, even if no criminal statutes were violated.

The Legislature should not give an inch on this matter.






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