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Questions swirl around Winder's campaign funds

Published June 4, 2012 11:15 am

Complaint seeks probe into whether he broke the law in raising funds for bid.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Salt Lake County Clerk's Office is reviewing a formal complaint that Republican county mayoral candidate Mike Winder violated campaign finance laws.

Winder, currently West Valley City's mayor, denied wrongdoing.

In a three-page letter earlier this week to County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, Curtis Patterson asked for an investigation into whether Winder broke the law by raising and spending money on his county mayoral campaign before declaring his candidacy for the position in January.

Patterson also questioned whether it was legal for Winder to put donations into his county campaign fund while making expenditures from a separate campaign fund set up to support his position as West Valley City's mayor.

A supporter of Winder's GOP rival Mark Crockett, Patterson cited financial statements filed April 5 in which Winder's county mayoral campaign received donations of $2,500 to $5,000 from three individuals — former House Speaker-turned-lobbyist Greg Curtis, Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall and West Valley City Councilman Corey Rushton — that were repaid almost in full, just days later, out of Winder's city campaign fund.

"I ask an immediate injunction against the expenditure of inappropriately raised campaign funds by the Winder campaign and any coordinating entities, as well as [a] refund of Winder campaign funds that have already been spent," Patterson wrote.

Winder's campaign chairman, Jake Dennis, said Friday that "we reject the complaint that someone cannot raise and spend money while in office, especially when someone is not yet a declared candidate for any future office and not actively campaigning for a specific office."

Dennis said a county campaign account was set up when Winder finalized his decision to run for county mayor and that campaign staffers worked closely with the County Clerk's Office to ensure financial reports complied with election ordinances.

"It was under the advice of the clerk's office that we refunded money from Mayor Winder's city account and encouraged those supporters to donate to his county account, which they have told us is permissible," Dennis said. "We'll examine the complaint thoroughly and continue to work with the County Clerk's Office to ensure a fair campaign. [We] are happy to make any adjustments if they would like us to."

Swensen said her office forwarded the complaint to the Winder campaign, which has until the end of May to respond.

Patterson could not be reached Friday for comment.

Crockett, a former county councilman and Winder's opponent in the June 26 Republican primary, said he knows Patterson, describing him as a "thorough person" who is volunteering on Crockett's mayoral campaign.

While aware of the complaint, Crockett declined to comment on its merits.

"I don't have any role in [the complaint], but I do hope it will be resolved quickly, one way or the other, so voters get full information before they vote," Crockett said. "I trust the clerk and district attorney will take a close look at it and take whatever steps are necessary."

Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairwoman Julie Dole said she has discussed Patterson's issues with the Winder campaign. "I don't think anything will come of that complaint," she said.

mikeg@sltrib.com

GOP primary

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, pictured, and former Salt Lake County Councilman Mark Crockett face off June 26 in a primary to decide the Republican nominee in the race for county mayor. The Democratic nominee is state Sen. Ben McAdams.