Report: Utah AG faces second ethics complaint

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 13, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -- Utah Attorney General John Swallow, already under fire for possible election law violations, reportedly is at the center of another ethics complaint.

The Deseret News reported last week that Traci Gunderson, the state's former consumer protection director, filed a complaint against Swallow with the Utah State Bar.

In the complaint, filed May 3, 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, also a former assistant attorney general, contends.

"It is concerning to me as an attorney that Mr. Swallow does not acknowledge or possibly even recognize his ethical duties to a client of his office," she wrote in her complaint, the newspaper reported.

"In a private law firm setting, conduct of this nature by a client's attorney would be cause for termination. Unfortunately, that is not an option available to the Division of Consumer Protection."

According to the News, Gunderson stepped down as the state's consumer protection director the same day she filed her complaint.

Swallow's office said Wednesday the complaint is "without merit."

"John Swallow did not violate any bar rules, and the complaint confuses the rules between a private law firm and a public law firm," according to a statement, which added that no meeting took place and no settlement offers were made or accepted.

The attorney general is already facing a complaint over possible election law 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.

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, a Republican, was elected in November to succeed Mark Shurtleff. He took office in January.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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