Rocky, downtown developer in City Hall fracas that nearly comes to blows
The confrontation began with a cold stare in the City Council workroom. Moments later, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and developer Dell Loy Hansen were chest to chest Tuesday evening - testosterone and personal attacks flying - in the marble-lined corridor of City Hall.
"You got the guts to come talk to me?" Hansen barked as he stormed toward the mayor, bumping him off balance.
"Don't touch me!" Anderson yelled. "I'll kick your ass."
City staffers watched awkwardly as the confrontation continued down the hall to the elevator.
"You're doing this because I'm a Republican and a Bush supporter," Hansen charged.
"You are absolutely out of your mind," Anderson, a Democrat, rebutted. "Sue me."
Seconds later, after Hansen grabbed Anderson by the arm, the mayor and the principal for Wasatch Property Management had to be restrained by Anderson's chief of staff and two Wasatch employees as a security guard looked on anxiously.
The near fisticuffs erupted after a tense redevelopment agency meeting, where Anderson asked the board to revoke $1 million in parking-garage money previously allotted for a planned office tower at 222 S. Main St.
Anderson insisted Hansen has not been an honorable business partner for the city. Since 2003, the mayor alleged Hansen has cheated the RDA - refinancing an RDA loan for the downtown Wells Fargo building without proper disclosure.
Hansen also has improperly claimed interest offsets worth more than half a million dollars by twisting an employee-tenant agreement at the bank building, the mayor claimed. The loan language allowed interest breaks for Wasatch for every employee hired by building tenants from outside the city limits. City officials say, and documents reveal, Hansen violated the incentive deal by claiming the credits for all new employees, not just workers drawn to the capital.
Hansen labeled the accusations a "malicious attack" and later (in the hallway) called Anderson a "filthy liar."
To make the mayor's move moot, Hansen announced to the RDA board that Wasatch has pulled out of the financing deal with Hamilton Partners for the Main Street office tower.
"We thank Rocky for inviting us to leave Salt Lake and enter other cities that are much more amenable," he said.
Now, Hamilton likely will have to seek another partner to get the planned tower - it was scheduled to break ground this fall - off the ground.
"Hopefully, the mayor hasn't just screwed up a great thing for downtown," Councilman Dave Buhler, a mayoral candidate, said after the dust-up. "We're out of class A office space. It would be a shame if we lose that project."
Anderson says he has made attempts since last month to meet with Hansen -the mayor did huddle with Wasatch attorney John Dahlstrom and RDA staff Monday - which Hansen disputes.
Before leaving - and chest-bumping the mayor - Hansen handed deputy RDA director Valda Tarbet a check for $586,000, half the amount of the RDA loan for the Wells Fargo building. Problem is it comes two years late.
Documents from the 2003 agreement call for Wasatch to immediately reimburse the RDA half the loan amount should the developer refinance for a term longer than three years.
D.J. Baxter, the city's RDA director, notes Wasatch refinanced for a five-year loan two years ago, but just disclosed that to the city Monday. Baxter estimates a total RDA loss of $1.2 million.
"That money would have been available for any number of projects," Baxter explained. "It harms the RDA. There's interest owed on that money."
Anderson says if Hansen takes his money outside Utah's capital "it would be great. It would be a good thing for our city."