Quantcast

Breakdown of costs reveals how Swallow probe grew and grew

Published March 26, 2014 10:06 am

Politics • As accusations mounted, investigation expanded into Nevada and Arizona.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah House's multimillion-dollar probe of then-Attorney General John Swallow spanned at least three states, drawing on 17 investigators and 10 outside lawyers who spent more than 9,300 hours running down dozens of leads.

"I didn't know going into it what the scope would be," Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said Tuesday. "As we got into it, we saw the scope kept expanding. There were many allegations that were made, so we had to kind of decide which ones to focus on and we kind of had ... to marshal our forces."

Newly released invoices show that investigators worked in Nevada and Arizona, pursuing leads and witnesses to Swallow's alleged misconduct.

The detailed invoices show the various rocks turned over by investigators — interviewing witnesses and collecting documents from indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson; spending hours scrutinizing time Swallow spent on Johnson's houseboat and rumors that he flew to places on Johnson's planes; locating witnesses who could speak to Swallow's ties with the online coaching and "biz-ops" industry; delving into consulting work Swallow reported doing in Nevada; and poring over endless campaign finance filings and other records.

Earlier this month, the Dunnigan-led special House committee released its final product, a scathing 200-page report alleging that Swallow hung a "for sale" sign on the door of the Utah attorney general's office, doing favors for wealthy donors and longtime friends.

The findings, along with 3,700 exhibits and tens of thousands of pages of additional documents, have all been turned over to investigators from the FBI and the Utah Department of Public Safety who are working with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings in an ongoing criminal probe.

The reported expense of the House investigation will climb higher than reported in the figures released Tuesday to The Salt Lake Tribune by the legislative fiscal analyst. They do not include the final invoices from the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld or the lead investigators with the Mintz Group for February.

The total expense of the investigation without those final invoices comes in at $3.36 million, although Dunnigan has said publicly the final tally could be about $4 million.

The Legislature has been billed for $1.9 million by Akin Gump, $1.4 million by the Mintz Group and $41,699 by Utah's Lindquist & Associates, records show. The totals do not include time or money spent paying legislative lawyers who also worked on the investigation.

While much was made early on of the $740-per-hour fee charged by lead attorney Steven Reich — that's a significantly discounted rate from his normal hourly fee of $925. In the end, the hourly fee for the team of 10 attorneys from Akin Gump averaged about $485.

Investigator fees amounted to just over $230-an-hour for the 17 investigators — 15 from the Mintz Group and two with Utah's Lindquist & Associates.

Dunnigan said the probe was obviously expensive, but he remains convinced it was worth it.

"There's no question in my mind that we hired the right firms to help us. I'm perfectly comfortable that we got the talent that was needed," he said. "And I'm also very comfortable and assured it needed to be done and the comments I continue to get now that we've concluded our report just reaffirm that."

At the probe's peak, newly released invoices show, taxpayers paid more than $800,000 in the month of October.

In that month, nearly $250,000 was spent either fighting in court over subpoenas issued by the committee or trying to recover data discovered to have been deleted or lost from Swallow's various computers.

The next month, Swallow announced his resignation, citing the limitless financial resources of the state probe and the toll it was taking to combat the inquiry.

"Pure and simple," he said, "I believe the House investigation was calculated to drive me from office."

gehrke@sltrib.com