When South Salt Lake hired an outside auditor at the end of June to look into questions from two city councilmen about whether public funds were being diverted to the mayor’s re-election campaign, the councilman overseeing the audit anticipated the process would take three weeks. But more than four months later, there are still no answers.
Mayor Cherie Wood requested the audit herself after Council members Mark Kindred and Shane Siwik, who were running for her seat at the time, raised concerns. They were particularly curious about the many roles filled by a city contractor — who simultaneously ran the Promise South Salt Lake program and Wood’s political action committee (PAC), including through her 2013 election. Kari Cutler resigned from the PAC soon after the issue came up in a council meeting.
Wood appears to have fended off a challenge from Kindred in the Nov. 7 election. As of Friday, her lead stood at 50.5 percent to 49 percent — a gap of just 43 votes out of more than 3,000 cast. Final results will be determined at a canvass Tuesday.
Councilman Ben Pender, who is managing the audit, said it’s taken longer than expected to get information from the mayor’s office and Social Marketing Consultants, the contract firm run by Cutler and her husband, Jack Wilbur.
“I definitely have some concerns on the length of time it’s taken,” Pender said, noting, for example, that one request made of Social Marketing Consultants in September has still not been fulfilled. “I believe based on comments that I’ve heard from other council members that at least the majority do believe that something … something or [for] some reason this thing has been stalled,” he added.
Wood said in an email that Social Marketing Consultants had submitted documents from the council’s initial, “massive,” request in August. The city submitted its documents in July.
The second request had come from the council three weeks ago, Wood said, and the city provided those documents on Tuesday. But emails Pender provided to The Salt Lake Tribune show he requested more information from the city’s budget director at the beginning of October.
“It is true Social Marketing Consultants has not been able to provide all the documents at the drop of a hat,” Cutler said in an email. She noted that the organization is working as efficiently as possible, “juggling the very busy job of running a small business while also doing the hard work of pulling together a large amount of detailed documentation that the auditors have requested in this latest round of requests.”
Kindred said he thinks the delays in the audit response are due to “internal resistance” but he wasn’t sure why that would be.
“Everyone was on the same page with it taking, you know, not that much time — being a quick effort,” he said. “The mayor even supported doing this. I mean, it was at her suggestion, I believe, that we implemented this and now it’s … It’s four months later.”
Wood did not comment on concerns about intentional delays in the process.
Pender said he thinks part of the holdup may also come from the administration’s concerns about the scope of the information the council is seeking. The audit scope goes back several years.
“I think there’s some pushback coming from the administration on that, saying we’ve overstepped our bounds on what we’re looking for,” Kindred said.
Pender said the audit is close to completion and he hopes the holiday season won’t slow results too much. But no matter what, Kindred said the council plans to see the audit to completion.
“We’re not done with this,” Kindred said. “We’re going to push this through to the end and we’re going to see it through to the finish. And as deep of a dive as we have to go, we’ll go for it. And if we get pushback, then we’ll get pushback. We’ve got to go and we’ll take it to the end of where it needs to go to get an answer.”