In its first meeting since the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Herriman City’s top elected official, the City Council on Wednesday will discuss Mayor David Watts’ unauthorized spending on travel and failure to repay several hundred dollars.
Some Herriman residents have called on the first-term mayor to step down, while the City Council has referred the matter for criminal investigation.
At issue is around $740 that Watts allegedly charged on the city credit card this summer during a trip to Washington, D.C., unrelated to city business. The money has yet to be reimbursed.
The meeting Watts attended in the nation’s capital involved a mosquito abatement district, officials said.
“Not only were there unapproved transactions but his actions put the travel account over budget,” Alan Rae, city finance director, said. “For a regular employee, our policy would be to take the purchasing card privilege away and discipline up to and including termination.”
Rae also pointed out that Watts had been reimbursed by the mosquito abatement district for his travel expenses. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill reviewed the charges and came out with a statement this past week.
Watts did not return several calls and emails seeking comment. Elected last year over then-Councilwoman Coralee Wessman-Moser, Watts has touted himself being financially responsible and transparent in his dealings.
“I have a proven record of fiscal discipline, community focus and transparency. I am willing and ready to continue to serve the residents of Herriman,” says his biography on the city website.
Gill, the district attorney, said there wasn’t enough to bring criminal charges in the case.
“We believe the nature of the claims and allegations involved can be addressed and probably resolved in a forum other than by means of a criminal charge in the criminal justice system,” Gill concluded in a letter released publicly.
“To the extent that we believe some of the facts tend to raise a reasonable doubt whether the mayor possessed criminal intent when he purchased the airfare, we believe the interests of justice are not served by filing a criminal charge.”
In the wake of the controversy, the city has “changed our policy so that the mayor and council no longer have purchasing cards,” Rae said. “They will be required to submit for reimbursement and will only receive reimbursement for transactions that meet our policy and are within our budget.”
Members of a Facebook group called Herriman Happenings have voiced outrage from city residents over the issue. Heather Fife Shay, administrator of the group, said, “I personally think he should resign. During his campaign he was very active and verbal but as soon as he was elected he went quiet. I don’t think he has the general population’s best interests [in mind] anymore.”