After reading through the governor’s veto letter, and talking to legislative legal counsel, here a few thoughts from Rep. Jim Dunnigan about House Bill 414.
1. The veto letter claims that HB414 “demands information from anyone, at any time, on any subject, for any purpose.”
This is not an accurate characterization of what the bill does. Under current law, the Legislature’s subpoena power is already broad in order to allow the Legislature to gather the information needed to enact good law. HB414 only deals with the process for enforcing a legislative subpoena. It does not expand the Legislature’s subpoena power.
2. The veto letter claims that HB414 “criminalizes any attempt by an individual to seek relief from anyone other than the legislative body itself. . . ”
That is incorrect. The bill simply states that if someone tries to challenge a legislative subpoena in a forum other than the legislative forum provided in HB414, the person is not excused from the obligation to comply with the subpoena and is subject to criminal penalties for failure to comply with the subpoena. HB414 does not criminalize anything other than failure to comply with a legislative subpoena.
3. The governor’s veto letter expresses concerns that the “final version of HB 414 did not have a committee hearing in either the House or the Senate . . . “
While this is technically correct, the reason for this is that changes were made to the bill, after committee hearings, in response to concerns raised by interested parties, including the governor’s office. The process used in the passage of HB414 is common and resulted in changes being made to address concerns raised during the time that the bill was being considered.
4. The veto letter claims that HB414 “denies our citizens their fundamental constitutional rights of defense and due process” and “violates the open courts provision of the Utah Constitution by denying citizens the ability to seek redress in the courts.”
We respectfully disagree. Due process essentially requires that a person be given notice (of government action and hearings relating to that action) and an opportunity to have the person’s position heard. The open courts provision of the Utah Constitution has been interpreted to prohibit the government from taking away the right of a person to pursue certain matters in court. This provision is not violated if an adequate alternative method for hearing a grievance is provided. HB414 provides an alternative method by allowing a subpoena to be challenged before a bi-partisan legislative review committee. This helps protect against a subpoena being issued for political reasons. Under HB414, the due process rights of a person who challenges a subpoena are preserved because the person has an absolute right to have their objections heard before a bi-partisan committee.
Though, under HB414, a person who challenges a legislative subpoena does not have the right to appeal the decision of a legislative review committee to a court, a legislative subpoena can only be enforced in court. HB414 provides two avenues to enforce a subpoena. One is criminal in nature and one is civil.
A person is guilty of a crime under HB414 only if the person refuses to comply with a legislative subpoena after the person has an opportunity to exercise the person’s due process rights before a legislative review committee. In that event, the matter would still need to be brought before a criminal court where the defendant would be able to raise any claim that the subpoena violated the defendant’s constitutional or legal rights.
In order to enforce a legislative subpoena civilly, the Legislature would be required to file an action in court and the person who is subject to the subpoena could then challenge the subpoena as part of that court action.
Thus, under HB414, it is impossible for a legislative subpoena to be enforced without the involvement of a court.
Rep. Dunnigan is the sponsor of House Bill 414, and was the chairman of the House special investigative committee that delved into allegations against now-former attorney general John Swallow.
This morning at 11, the House Special Investigative Committee concluded by presenting the final report on the House floor. The report itself is over 200 pages long, with 3,700 pages of exhibits supporting the report.
Rep. Dunnigan, chairman of the Investigative Committee, briefly outlined the final report and its contents, before presenting it to the Speaker of the House. You can watch the presentation, or read the remarks from Rep. Dunnigan and the Speaker embedded below.
The report is separated into four main parts: The first will detail Mr. Swallow’s conduct while in office; the second section will present Mr. Swallow’s efforts to conceal evidence; the third piece looks into other courses the committee investigated; and finally, the fourth section outlines suggestions the Legislature should study to change Utah law.
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Dunnigan told the Salt Lake Tribune, “the attorney general’s office is the highest law-enforcement office in the state and people have to feel like everyone is treated fairly and equally and that no nods or special favors are given.”
Shortly after taking office, John Swallow was accused of bribery, giving preferential treatment to campaign donors and failing to disclose business conflicts of interest.
This launched the investigation into the former Attorney General was approved by the House on July 3, 2013, and began hearings in August.
John Swallow resigned as attorney general in December of 2013.
You can find more about the about House Investigative Committee on its website.
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Investigators chosen for House special committee
An evaluation committee has selected two investigative firms to assist in the Utah House of Representatives’ investigation of Attorney General John Swallow.
The Mintz Group of New York, New York, associated with Steve Clark of Eden, Utah, will lead the investigative team that will also include Lindquist & Associates of Salt Lake City.
“This gives us a strong team with both experience in complex investigations and local knowledge,” said committee chairman Jim Dunnigan.
Founded in 1994, the Mintz Group, has more than 85 investigators in 11 offices in the United States and abroad.
The Mintz Group was the chief investigative firm for the Select Committee of Inquiry of the Connecticut House of Representatives formed to investigate then-Governor John Rowland in 2004. Mintz Group founder and President Jim Mintz will serve as lead investigator on this matter, a position he held during the Governor Rowland investigation. Mr. Mintz has more than 30 years’ experience conducting private investigations around the world for law firms, corporations, non-profits and government entities.
The House has already hired special counsel Steven Reich and his team from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
“We expect this team will be thorough and professional,” Dunnigan said. “We have absolute confidence that the committee will be able to put together the facts we’ve been tasked to pursue.”
The committee is expected to meet next on Sept. 11.
Joe Pyrah, Utah House chief deputy
Special counsel chosen for House special investigative committee
An evaluation committee has selected Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as the firm to assist in the Utah House of Representatives’ investigation of Attorney General John Swallow.
Akin Gump is one of the world’s largest law firms, with more than 800 lawyers and professionals in 18 offices in the United States and abroad. They are recognized for their strength in white-collar criminal matters, constitutional litigation, government ethics and congressional investigations, among other areas.
“The firm has strong experience right where we need it most,” said committee chairman Jim Dunnigan. “We’ll also have the benefit of an exemplary lead attorney in Steven Reich.”
In 2004, Mr. Reich served as special counsel to the Select Committee of Inquiry of the Connecticut House of Representatives formed to investigate then-Governor John W. Rowland. In 1998-99, Mr. Reich served as deputy chief investigative counsel to the Minority members of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives during the impeachment of President Clinton, and thereafter as impeachment counsel to the minority members of the United States Senate during the President’s impeachment trial. Prior to joining Akin Gump, Mr. Reich was a senior official at the United States Department of Justice.
Mr. Reich will be joined by Steven Ross. Mr. Ross leads the Akin Gump congressional investigations practice and, for 10 years prior to joining the firm, was the general counsel of the United States House of Representatives. He is also nationally-known in the field of government ethics and has significant experience advising legislative bodies regarding their investigative authority.
Mr. Reich and his team are expected to begin work for the House committee upon completion of contract negotiations.
Joe Pyrah, Utah House chief deputy
As part of a rigorous and thorough hiring process, 61 firms have been narrowed to 10 finalists for the position of special counsel to the House special investigative committee.
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP
Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP
Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, P.C.
Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP
Jenner & Block LLP
Kelley, Wolter & Scott, P.A.
Lane Powell PC
Sidley Austin LLP
Steptoe & Johnson, LLP
The finalists will be interviewed next week. The award of the contract will be announced by Friday, Aug. 9.
“We’re pleased with the number and quality of the firms. The response was well beyond our expectations,” said Committee Chairman Jim Dunnigan.
The special investigative committee of the Utah House of Representatives was created to find facts related to accusations against Attorney General John Swallow. Its first meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 1 p.m.
Information on the committee can be found right here.
Joe Pyrah, House chief deputy
New Investigative Committee Chairman Named
Speaker of the House Rebecca Lockhart announced today that the House committee to investigate Utah’s Attorney General has a new chairman, Rep. Jim Dunnigan.
“Rep. Dunnigan is a veteran lawmaker who is a widely respected member of the House,” Lockhart said. “I expect he will be tough but fair in how he runs this committee.”
Dunnigan will replace Rep. Lowry Snow, who will no longer be on the committee after a joint decision with the Speaker.
“My top concern with the investigation of Attorney General Swallow was that it be conducted with integrity and transparency. I felt it was in the best interests of the committee to step aside in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest,” Snow said. “This will allow the public to focus on the investigation, and not on who is doing the investigating.”
“Rep. Snow is above reproach, which is why he was chosen as chairman in the first place,” Lockhart said. “But whether we like it or not, perception matters in the public sphere. It pains me to lose him, his talents and leadership skills.”
“The good news is that the House has many members who can step up, and Rep. Dunnigan has my full confidence.”
Rep. Francis Gibson has been chosen to fill the open position on the committee.
What is the House investigative committee:
The House of Representatives created a special investigative committee to find facts regarding allegations against Utah Attorney General John Swallow.
Rep. Gibson bio:
Rep. Francis Gibson has served in the Utah House of Representatives since 2009. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Houston. He is currently serving as the Chair of the House Education Committee, and is a past chairman of the House Ethics Committee.
Cell phone: 801.491.3763
Joe Pyrah, Utah House chief deputy
Cell phone: 801.903.0095