A new poll has found that 72 percent of Utahns think the Legislature should move forward with the process to impeach John Swallow.
The poll, released Monday by BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, found that Swallow's approval rating among voters is near the cellar, as only 12 percent said they have a positive view of the embattled attorney general.
The poll doesn't get any better for Swallow; researchers found that 87 percent of Utah voters have heard, read or seen some kind of news recently about him. Of that group 34 percent think he has done something illegal and 63 percent think he has done something unethical. The poll also found that 78 percent of Utah voters think Swallow should resign.
The numbers came out as the Legislature is set to discuss what will happen next in the Swallow saga. Members of the House Republican caucus are scheduled to discuss impeachment procedures and Swallow during their meeting on Wednesday. While the numbers are clearly a sign the public is frustrated with Swallow it isn't a guarantee that the House will move forward with impeachment, yet.
"This is something we need to be careful about," Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, said.
Kennedy, who is a doctor by profession, related the Swallow situation to a person being sick. He said clearly on the outside it looks like something might be wrong but without doing an examination of the person you won't be able to find out if they have a cold that will go away soon or a more serious problem that would need major treatment.
Kennedy said he would support creating an investigative committee to examine the allegations about Swallow but is not ready to move forward with articles of impeachment even if the numbers suggest that is what Utah voters would like to see.
While the numbers for Swallow look bad, supporters of John Swallow have put on the full court press to persuade lawmakers to not start impeachment proceedings. In recent days lawmakers have received communication from Swallow's personal attorney arguing that the Legislature has no grounds to impeach Swallow and emails from members of Utah's Eagle Forum telling the lawmakers to not penalize Swallow for actions that occurred prior to his winning bid to become the attorney general.
Speculation has gone forward that there is a chance that Swallow may not have broken any laws prior to taking office but that the Legislature could still impeach him because he has done enough to lose the confidence of the public and is unable to operate the office effectively. Rod Snow, Swallow's personal attorney, sent a letter to the Legislature's general counsel arguing that the notion is incorrect and that the lawmakers have no standing to begin impeachment proceedings.
"There are no provisions in the Utah Constitution, Utah statutes or case law for impeachment based on alleged inability to be effective," Snow wrote in his letter. "Mr. Swallow has not been charged with or convicted of any crime -- and certainly not any high crime or misdemeanor."
Snow went on to point out the questionable backgrounds of those who have come forward with allegations against Swallow. He reminded lawmakers that the credibility of those who are accusing Swallow could be seen as questionable, as many of them are facing their own legal troubles right now.
"We believe this is the time for elected officials from both sides of the aisle to demonstrate their faith in our system of government by not allowing scandalous allegations concocted by those under indictment for fraud, or locked up in prison for fraud, to manipulate the press and to dictate how elected officials react," Snow said.
In addition to Snow's letter, members of the Utah Eagle Forum have been called on by their leadership to call members of the House and urge them to hold off on impeachment.
"The most important reason for the Legislature to not initiate impeachment proceedings at this time is because Attorney General John Swallow has done absolutely nothing since becoming the attorney general that would justify or even suggest impeachment," said the letter signed by Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka and vice president Dalane England. "Allegations brought prior to John's becoming attorney general are irrelevant to an impeachment and have not been substantiated or proved by any credible source and are currently being investigated by the FBI."
Despite the efforts by Swallow's attorney and the Eagle Forum to slow down the Legislature from beginning the impeachment process, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, has drafted a resolution to initiate impeachment proceedings. King also penned a letter to fellow House members asking that Democrats be included in the Wednesday House Republican caucus meeting to discuss impeachment. King said all of the members of the House should be involved in the discussion on how to proceed with the Swallow situation, not just the Republicans.
House Republican caucus meetings traditionally stay open to the public so Democratic house members can already attend. Members of the GOP caucus though can vote to close the meeting which would leave out the public and the Democrats on their discussions of how to proceed.