Embattled Utah Attorney General John Swallow has instituted a new policy whereby he will meet with businesses or individuals only through a formal application process and with the presence of another employee, who will more or less chaperone to ensure that nothing happens in the meeting to compromise the integrity of the office. But there are still some unanswered questions about how the reform will actually work.
Editor’s note: This is Part 5 of The Swallow Files, a series of online and print stories examining notes, observations and overlooked elements of the ongoing Swallow scandal as the Legislature begins its lengthy investigation into the attorney general’s fitness as a public servant. See parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 out on stands this week looks at the donations Sen. Mike Lee received from Jeremy Johnson as well as special interests connected to Swallow.
Swallow’s tenure as attorney general has been rocked by pay-to-play allegations since he took office in January; Swallow has rebuffed calls for his resignation and impeachment. During the state GOP’s Central Committee meeting in June, Swallow told his party colleagues he was innocent of the allegations and that he had enacted a new rule to protect the office from allegations of conflicts of interest.
According to a Salt Lake Tribune article on the event, those seeking an audience with Swallow would make an appointment that would be “vetted” by staff. During the meeting, another staff member would sit in so that Swallow wouldn’t find himself “in situations that would compromise the integrity of the attorney general or the office.”
City Weekly submitted the below follow-up questions to the Attorney General’s Office about the policy, but the office would not return comment.
1.Does the policy only apply to campaign-related appointments?
2. What if the person just runs into Swallow at a non-campaign related event and donates at another time?
3. What staff are qualified to act as chaperones for these meetings? Does it have to be an attorney? Could it be campaign staff?
4. When the chaperone is there, if they notice something untoward or inappropriate, do they file a report? What do they do about it?
5. If the chaperone is just an employee of the AG’s, doesn’t it put them in a difficult position to stop or report something irregular, since by doing so it could be perceived as jeopardizing their employment?
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank says that there are lots of ways that a person could get around a political chaperone program such as this, but on the whole, sees it as a good idea.
“It seems like the sort of thing that particularly an attorney general would want to have a policy in place for, largely because the nature of what an attorney general does, in what is both a political office and also a legislative office,” Burbank says. “It’s not an absolute guarantee. But, it’s better than simply having [Swallow] going into his office, closing the door and having a meeting with nobody knowing what’s being said or for what purposes.”