January 23, 2018

Is a 2nd Utah elected official under investigation by the FBI?

13516091Could another Utah state official be under investigation by the FBI?

The FBI investigation into Utah’s Attorney General John Swallow has been well documented in recent weeks (see here, here, here, and here, Also, here and here). Swallow may not be the only elected official in state government under FBI investigation.  An investigation into Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has received FBI involvement, as well.

With public polling in favor of Swallow’s resignation and the Department of Justice investigation running, rumors are swirling that the Governor has already begun to consider who he will appoint to replace Swallow if he resigns.

Speculation has put  Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell at the top of that list. After well documented piece in the red-headed step-child of Salt Lake’s news media, the City Weekly, Governor Herbert may soon reconsider.

According to an article published on February 20, 2013, based on documents obtained from the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Utah Department of Human Services, and posted on City Weekly’s site, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell’s office has been involved in a questionable audit of a Child Protective Services (CPS) 2011 case.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, responding to an interview request, noted in a three-page letter to City Weekly that no charges have yet been filed nor any individuals indicted. The complaints his office are looking at are that “governmental power and public monies were abused, outside the scope of legitimate authority, to thwart the outcome of a singular child abuse case.”

Rawlings revealed that pretrial pleadings in the daughter’s case indicated the audit was to be used as a “defense tool,” a plan apparently sunk by the county attorney’s investigation, which led to the audit being “pulled back or minimalized.” Communications from Bell and the auditors he hired led DePaulis, state agency employees and contracted medical providers involved with the child-abuse case to feel “concern” for the future of their jobs and contracts.

 If having the David County Attorney–a Republican–investigate the Lt. Gov. is not enough, Rawlings has said that the FBI has assisted.

It’s not only Rawlings’ office that is looking at the audit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is “providing support and assistance,” Rawlings noted. An FBI spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on its role in the investigation, which dates back to November 2011. If what Rawlings said is correct, Bell is now the second elected state official that the FBI is known to be investigating, along with Attorney General John Swallow.

I know and like Greg Bell. I’ve met him several times, sat next to him at dinner, and have always held him up as an exemplar of someone unsullied by the mud that so often clings to those in politics. I very much hope that this is all a mistake, a misunderstanding, or otherwise wrong. I very much like him.

However, the City Weekly article is not based on conjecture or speculation. It is bolstered by documents indicating hours and hours of billing ordered by the Lt. Gov.’s office, emails and letters between public officials, and otherwise demonstrative documentary evidence. It is a hard case to talk away.

For these reasons, I hesitated before commenting or sharing the story. However, it would be unfair for me to spend so much time looking at and discussing the allegations against Swallow and to ignore those against the Lt. Gov.

I think, like I have said about the Swallow affair, that it is far premature to call for Lt. Gov. Bell’s resignation. Indeed, Lt. Gov. Bell is not Attorney General Swallow, nor are the accusations against him of the same nature. however, good public policy demands inspection into the charges and a full review of the actions taken. When the public trust is at issue, full transparency and disclosure is the first, and best, policy.

Davis County Attorney Statement by

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About Daniel Burton

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. You can follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas. He is active on social media, Republican politics, and has been named to PoliticIt’s list of the “Top-50 Utah Political Opinion Leaders” on Twitter. You can reach him directly at dan.burton@gmail.com

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