GOP chairman calls for an investigation of Rocky's spending

Published October 6, 2005 1:05 am
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Accusing Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson of misusing public money, a GOP leader wants Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom to investigate.

James Evans, chairman of Salt Lake County's Republican Party, said Wednesday he will send a letter to Yocom requesting him to look into Anderson's use of taxpayer money on alcohol and the trip city officials and others took to Italy earlier this year related to the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Evans is going after Yocom as much as he is Anderson.

The party boss believes Yocom, a Democrat, had a political vendetta when he investigated former County Mayor Nancy Workman, a Republican, for misusing public funds when Workman had bookkeepers hired to work for her daughter at the South Valley Boys and Girls Club. Workman was acquitted of the two felony charges in February.

"I am so disturbed by Yocom misusing his prosecutorial discretion [regarding Workman] and for him not to consider what Rocky did, is to me, such an affront, this point has to be made," said Evans, who had clashed with the mayor when Evans was a state senator. "You cannot misuse public money to benefit yourself or others."

Yocom's office didn't comment Wednesday, waiting for Evans' formal request.

Anderson said Evans is the one who is playing politics and demonstrating "nasty" partisanship.

"He does the Republican Party a huge disservice. It doesn't sound to me like James Evans has his facts straight, as usual."

But some Salt Lake City Council members have questions about the Italy trip, too. They aren't alleging criminal wrongdoing but are looking into the trip's expenses and whether the mayor's office followed city policies in spending the money. The council also is looking into whether Anderson violated state law or city policy in how a monument honoring body-organ donors was built at Library Square.

As part of a tradition for Winter Olympic host cities, Anderson and others delivered a message this summer of "peace, youth and the environment" by bike and yacht to Turin, Italy. The European bicycle leg of the trip included Anderson; his girlfriend Tracy Lyon; Deputy Mayor Rocky Fluhart and Fluhart's wife, Gretchen; Anderson's friends and bike racers, Bill and Celia Underwood, and Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy.

Everyone but Anderson personally paid for their flights; the mayor's was covered by private donations.

The U.S. leg included Jeff Niermeyer, deputy director of the city's Public Utilities Department, and Park City resident Marc Wangsgard.

Council members did not want taxpayer money spent on the $136,000 trip. That concern may have been assuaged this week when the mayor showed that private donations will cover the cost. There is an $830 surplus in donations, but not all expenses may be accounted for.

Anderson had set aside $35,000 to help pay for a $90,000 documentary film of the event, but donations are expected to cover that portion as well.

"We're finding the donations are going to be able to cover [expenses]," said Gordon Hoskins, the city's finance director.

But council questions remain over the appropriateness of how team members were picked and whether donations should have covered the expenses of Anderson's girlfriend and the other noncity members. When taxpayer money is involved, city officials must pay for their spouses with their own money. By city rules, donations managed by the city must follow the rules used for taxpayer funds.

"When I took my wife to Nagano [Japan] in 1998 [to attend the Winter Olympics], I had to pay the difference," said Councilman Carlton Christensen. "I picked up her plane ticket. I picked up her meals. The expectation ought to be the same if [donations are] going through city coffers."

In July, the city characterized Lyon as Anderson's guest and said that, as such, she would have to cover all of her own expenses. Hoskins said Wednesday he wasn't aware Lyon was part of the crew and thought she was "going along with the team. We did not reimburse her personally."

But Anderson said Lyon was part of the team, as were the noncity members.

"These were all ambassadors for Salt Lake City. If we'd taken only city employees, there'd be the complaint they were away from their jobs. This was an amazing thing these people did. We ought to be grateful to them."

There was no formal process used to pick team members. Anderson said he picked people he knew he could count on to make the trip.

"If I thought any one of our council members could have made this ride," they and their spouses would have been invited, he said.

Council Chairman Dale Lambert said he would have expected a more open process on who got to go on the trip. "I've never been on a city trip. If I were to go on one, and I took my wife, I wouldn't call her a team member."

Lambert also questions the money spent for a future film documentary of the trip. "You tell me what the purpose of that is. It seems, in hindsight, kind of an odd adventure."

Meanwhile, county GOP leader Evans said the trip smacks of Anderson using public funds to personally benefit Anderson's friends. He believes the donations and taxpayer money were commingled, but Hoskins says they weren't.




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