Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 28, 2013, 3:15pm
SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -- A bill preventing Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who is under fire for possible election law violations, from investigating himself was signed into law Wednesday.
Senate Bill 289 was among the 80-plus bills signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.
Lawmakers quickly passed the bill earlier this month.
The law -- which takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 1 -- appoints special counsel to investigate a complaint against the attorney general.
Earlier this month, the Alliance for a Better Utah filed an 18-page petition with the Lieutenant Governor's Office. The office is tasked with enforcing state election laws and investigating any alleged violations.
The petition alleges 12 counts by Swallow, who the group argues should be removed.
Among the allegations: Swallow filed a misleading or false campaign declaration and disclosure forms regarding his personal business interests; that he conducted campaign activities at his state office during and after business hours; and that he used campaign funds for personal use.
SB 289 basically carves an exception into the current law, so that when the attorney general is the subject of a complaint he or she is prevented from investigating him or herself. Instead, the Lieutenant Governor's Office would appoint special counsel.
Prior to the new law, if the Lieutenant Governor's Office determined a special investigation was needed on election law violations, it would refer the information to the attorney general. The attorney general would then bring a special proceeding to investigate and appoint special counsel.
The now-law comes two months after the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed that the newly-elected Swallow is being investigated for allegations that he helped make a federal investigation into a St. George businessman go away.
Jeremy Johnson is accused of running a multi-million-dollar fraudulent software scheme in which he billed hundreds of thousands of consumers for products they never ordered.
He has alleged that Swallow arranged a deal to pay U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to stop a Federal Trade Commission investigation into his business. Both Swallow and Reid have denied the allegations.
Swallow, a Republican, was elected in November to succeed Mark Shurtleff. He took office in January.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed in January Swallow is being investigated in coordination with the Department of Justice and the FBI.
A spokesman for Swallow said at the time that the investigation was a "good" thing, saying the attorney general "wants the facts to be known as much as anyone else."
Spokesman Paul Murphy also said at the time Swallow has no plans to resign.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.