Lockhart and the other 60 House GOP members will caucus for three hours Wednesday morning and afternoon to discuss Swallow issues.
Lockhart said just after the meeting of the Executive Appropriations Committee – made up of leaders from both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats – that she doesn’t see Wednesday’s caucus making any impeachment decisions – but will just discuss Swallow’s problems.
That’s because the Utah Constitution says it is up to the House speaker -- and the speaker alone -- to decide whether to poll the 75 House members on whether to begin an impeachment proceedings.
“It says “may,” not “shall,”” noted Lockhart, Utah’s first female speaker.
Likewise, if she decides to call for a poll of her members, even if two-thirds of them or more ask for an impeachment to start, she is not required to do so, Lockhart said.
But, she added, if two-thirds or more of the House, in an official poll, said they wanted to start the impeachment of Swallow, such a vote would be “very, very” informative for her.
Just to make it clear: Lockhart has not decided to poll her members, which would be the official start of any impeachment process.
If two-thirds did not favor impeachment, Lockhart could “may” start the process.
Asked by UtahPolicy, Lockhart said she has put no time frame on her making a decision on whether to ask for an official poll of the House, or if she will even do so.
“We want more information,” about Swallow’s problems, she said.
So far, she said, only media reports have made allegations against Swallow, who took office in January.
In the past seven days, however, the public heat on Swallow has increased:
-- GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said if Swallow worked for him, he would fire him. (Herbert, like Lockhart, has not called for Swallow’s resignation.)
-- Over the weekend, court filings make official claims by Swallow opponents that he acted inappropriately in dealing with Utahns who are now defendants in various criminal proceedings.
-- And Monday a BYU political poll found that nearly 80 percent of Utahns want Swallow to resign, while over 70 percent believe impeachment proceedings against the AG should begin.
Lockhart said the poll and other recent Swallow revealings is like Chinese water torture – where water is dripped on a victim’s head until it drives him crazy.
Asked by UtahPolicy whether if Swallow worked for the Utah House, she would fire him, Lockhart declined to answer, smiling, rolling her eyes, in effect to say it was a question not worth answering.
Lockhart has taken, and continues to take, her constitutional responsibilities on impeachment “serious” – a word she uses often in describing her approach.
Lockhart has sent out four individual emails to House members detailing her and her colleagues impeachment responsibilities.
She said she has read widely on impeachment in other states, in the U.S. federal government, and even English law on the history of impeachment.
Impeachment hearings have begun on several state judges, but were dropped when the jurists resigned.
Expulsion against a House member was started, and a vote nearly taken, against a Democratic House member who pled guilty to a shoplifting charge in the 1980s, but the woman resigned just before the expulsion vote was taken.
No official impeachment proceedings have ever been started in Utah history against one of the four statewide elected officials – governor, AG, state treasurer and auditor.
While Wednesday’s GOP House caucus is NOT an official impeachment proceeding, if many of the majority caucus voice a desire for Lockhart to officially start the impeachment process by a poll of all House members, it would be difficult for her to refuse to do so.
The 14-member House Democratic caucus has already asked Lockhart to start the impeachment hearing process by polling the House membership.
Swallow continues to deny he has done anything illegal or unethical, and maintains he has no intention of resigning.