Attorneys for the group Alliance for a Better UTAH filed a complaint Thursday with the lieutenant governor, seeking a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General John Swallow violated campaign law and, if he did, potentially have him removed from office.
The complaint, drafted by attorney and former Republican state legislator David Irvine, on behalf of Crystal Young-Otterstrom, alleges a dozen violations, including multiple failures to report his business interests or income, and alleges he may have misused state resources and campaign funds.
"This is an issue in our view of ensuring the integrity of Utah's election process," Irvine said Thursday.
The complaint includes an allegation that Swallow attempted to conceal his interest in P-Solutions and payments from the late Check City founder Richard Rawle.
The money for those payments came from funds paid to Rawle by St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson who hired Rawle to help him avoid a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit.
Swallow said the money was paid for consulting work he did on a cement project in Nevada, an assertion Rawle backed up in a declaration days before his death in December.
It also notes numerous other companies, including Timberline Drilling, the Vital Ground Foundation and Mark Shurtleff, Inc., in which Swallow was an officer and failed to report his interest.
However, a Swallow adviser points out that Swallow had nothing to do with two of those companies a different John Swallow was an officer in Timberline Drilling and Vital Ground Foundation.
"Mr. Irvine needs to do better research," said Swallow's campaign consultant Jason Powers. "Such carelessness is pervasive throughout this inaccurate and meritless complaint. Nonetheless, the campaign will address any questions directed to it from the Lt. Governor's office."
Under state law, if the Lieutenant Governor's Office deems the petition has merit, it is typically forwarded to the attorney general for an investigation.
In this instance, because it is the attorney general who would be investigated, the liberal-leaning alliance is asking for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate and, if the findings warrant, a civil lawsuit seeking an order to have Swallow removed from office.
Irvine said it should not be a lengthy process.
"Anyone who looks at the petition and the documents that are appended … can make a determination in the space of about 30 minutes whether there was complete, full and accurate disclosure of the required business interests," Irvine said. "This should not be a six-month undertaking."
When Swallow filed to run for office he filed a financial disclosure that did not list several of the companies in which he was an officer at the time. He filed an amended return on March 15, the same day he took his name off of several companies, transferring his interests to his wife.
That includes P-Solutions, a company that received $23,500 from Rawle for consulting work on a Nevada limestone quarry, part of a planned cement project.
The money Swallow was paid came from funds Johnson paid to Rawle. Swallow had put Johnson in touch with Rawle, Swallow and Rawle insist, to hire lobbyists. Johnson said he and Rawle arranged to pay Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., $600,000, which Johnson has called a bribe.
Reid has denied any knowledge of Johnson's case.
When Swallow learned the money had come from Johnson and his associate, Swallow returned it months later and asked to be paid from a different account.
Swallow's conduct is the subject of a federal investigation and prompted calls for ethics reform in the Legislature. Democrats have also asked the governor to appoint a special investigator to determine if Swallow violated any state laws.
Federal prosecutors filed a barrage of new charges against Johnson on Wednesday, charging him and his business associates with 86 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, alleging they ran a scheme that bilked tens of thousands of consumers out of tens of millions of dollars.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he has confidence in the federal agencies investigating Swallow, but harbors doubts about the motives of the Alliance's complaint.
"My concern is there's just some politics behind the complaint," Herbert said. "I know it's hard for people to be patient and sometimes politics rears its ugly head and says we'll make some kind of a statement for political purposes. This will be resolved I think appropriately on behalf of the people of Utah hopefully sooner rather than later, but let's let this investigation play its way out."