SALT LAKE CITY – Emails and other electronic records are missing from devices used by Attorney General John Swallow, said a lawyer for the Utah House committee investigating the attorney general. Swallow has since denied that he deleted documents related to allegations of alleged misconduct, and is firing back at the committee over the matter.
Swallow is currently being investigating by the Utah House committee over allegations of alleged of misconduct, which includes accusations of influence peddling and extortion.
“I will tell you the scope of the data loss here is not anything that I have seen before, and it is something that I find deeply worrisome,” Steven Reich told the committee Tuesday. “I leave open the possibility that there are benign explanations for the things we have seen.”
News of the missing documents was reported Oct. 31. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Rod Snow, Swallow’s lawyer, said the attorney general did not intentionally delete any documents related to allegations of alleged misconduct. Rather, the documents may have been the victim of a glitch triggered by the state government’s changing of its email systems.
“The fact that certain emails were somehow lost in translation and may have been deleted, John didn’t have anything to do with that,” Snow said, “and a number of times he has attempted to recover them.”
Reich told the committee – made up of four Democrats and five Republicans – that documents were missing from the time Swallow became the deputy chief under then Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in 2009. Devices that data had been lost from include Swallow’s state-issued work computers, a personal digital assistant, and his work personal computer. Reich has attempted to restore data from the state’s older computers, but that has proven futile since the hard drives were wiped after the computers were replaced. Snow’s home computer also experienced a malfunction, rendering data retrieval a fruitless endeavor. Swallow’s personal cellphone has also been replaced.
“If relevant records were intentionally deleted,” Reich said, “the committee must examine whether those deletions were part of an effort to hide the truth.”
Following Reich’s report to the House investigative committee, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Gov. Gary Herbert also said the missing documents were a concern.
“I hope there is a rational explanation, but the magnitude is a cause for concern,” the governor said.
Snow has said that Reich is “jumping to conclusions and making assumptions without a fair and factual basis,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Swallow fires back
The attorney general has since shot back at the committee, saying it needs to find something wrong so it can justify the money spent during the course of the investigation.
Thus far an estimated $3 million of taxpayer money has gone into the committee’s investigation.
“I think it’s a virtual impossibility that, that committee could spend $3 million and be satisfied to come up with a clean bill of health for me,” Swallow told Deseret News.
As for deleting emails, Swallow denied deleting anything related to the state, though said he does have a personal policy of deleted his personal email on a regular basis.
Responding to Swallow’s words, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, who heads the House committee, said to Deseret News: “The committee is determined to conduct an investigation that is fair, even-handed and methodical, and that’s what we have been doing.”
Including himself, none of the committee members have any preconceived nations about Swallow, Dunnigan said. The probe into Swallow is also within cost projections, he said. However, the price of the probe may go up as new developments and setbacks, such as the missing documents, are addressed.
“If our committee can do our job in determining what the facts are, whatever they are … then we’ve done our job and we’ll be comfortable with that,” Dunnigan told the The Salt Lake Tribune. “Whatever the outcome is, if we can be factual and fair and even-handed, we will have done our job.”
While on the Doug Wright Show, Swallow went after Reich, stating Reich failed to give the committee a completely fair and accurate presentation of the facts. While detailing the missing data, Swallow said, Reich did not mention that the attorney general’s lawyer and his office had supplied over 10,000 documents and have been cooperative with the investigation.
“Any intimation to the contrary is disingenuous from my point of view and a disservice to the people of Utah, to the taxpayers of Utah and to the members of that committee,” Swallow said on the radio program, according to Deseret News.
In addition to the Utah House probe, the Lt. Governor’s Office is investigating Swallow, as are the Salt Lake and Davis County attorney’s offices with the assistance of the FBI. In contrast, the Utah State Bar dropped an ethical misconduct complaint against Swallow in October. The U.S. Department of Justice brought its own investigation to an end in September when it chose not to indict Swallow.
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