SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -- The president of a conservative public policy think tank, in a radio address this week, called for Utah Attorney General John Swallow to resign.
Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute, in a four-minute weekly radio commentary Tuesday, said he has joined the "growing ranks" of people who think Swallow should step down from office.
"I say this with some regret -- I consider John to be a friend. I also consider him to be a competent attorney. And I know he's human," Mero said.
Swallow, a Republican who took office in January, is under fire for possible election law violations and has been accused of ethics violations.
In March, the Alliance for a Better Utah filed an 18-page petition with the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
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.
Last month, Traci Gunderson, the state's former consumer protection director, filed a separate complaint against Swallow with the Utah State Bar.
In the complaint, she alleges the attorney general -- inappropriately -- conducted preliminary settlement negotiations with a telemarketing company against which the Division of Consumer Protection had fined.
Swallow did not have permission from the division to do so, Gunderson, a former assistant attorney general, contends.
In January, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah confirmed that the newly-elected Swallow was being investigated, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI, 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.
Swallow has maintained he has done nothing wrong.
"I can imagine that John Swallow, like so many other politicians, unfortunately, found himself working within a culture of corruption, even a subtle culture, that influenced him to think differently than he might otherwise think about his own personal ethics and proprieties," Mero said during his address this week. "Politics is a nasty game. Only the strong need apply. And the lines of propriety get blurry real fast."
Mero said Swallow deserves his day in court -- if it comes to that.
"He certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt as an American citizen -- we call it innocent until proven guilty," he said. "He is under investigation and, so far, he has welcomed the investigations. For that, he is to be commended.
"But a person who values integrity would go one step further. A person of integrity holding public office would put that office before himself."
Mero continued, "That the Attorney General's Office functions day-to-day and completes its assigned duties, even under these stressful circumstances, isn't really the point. The point about integrity isn't about function as much as it is about the confidence that citizens have in the people they elect -- especially the person they elect to be the state's top cop.
"John Swallow is the chief law enforcement officer in Utah and precisely because I believe that he strives to be a man of integrity, he should step down."
To read the complete transcript of Mero's address, click here.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.