KAYSVILLE — City Councilman Dave Adams should pay back Kaysville for spending nearly $6,000 in city funds to use his personal firetruck in the city's Fourth of July water parade, the Utah State Auditor concluded Tuesday, citing unapproved and possible political uses of taxpayer funds.
Despite the auditor's recommendation, city officials aren't sure exactly how much of the bill they'll be asking Adams to pay.
And Adams — who held a news conference Tuesday with his wife and kids after the auditor's report was released — said he believed he had clearly approved the expenses through the city's parks and recreation department.
"We're not here to fight against the whole city or the state for that matter," Adams said, standing in front of his firetruck outside Kaysville City Hall. "But there was an agreement made."
The auditor also concluded that Kaysville should place tighter controls to prevent "the misuse of credit cards," finding that a lack of clear city oversight lead to unapproved charges.
Adams said he's "open to negotiations" with the City Council on how to proceed with the bill. However, if he ends up having to pay back any of the money, Adams said he will sell his firetruck to raise the funds.
Adams' firetruck, "Big Red," has been used for the past 10 years to soak onlookers in Kaysville's popular Fourth of July parade.
"Big Red can be sold off. It will be a sad day," he said. "But we're willing to do whatever we have to do."
It's the latest episode of financial controversy within Kaysville city government. Last week, the city's public works director stepped down after nearly $13,000 in unaccounted for cash was found locked in a safe in his department, and the city is currently at the center of a Davis County Attorney's Office investigation upon which officials will not elaborate.
State Auditor John Dougall's three-week investigation began after an outburst during a Kaysville City Council meeting last month, when Adams berated his colleagues for scrutinizing his use of a city credit card to help repair "Big Red."
But when the charges exceeded $2,500 — the amount the auditor said was "verbally" approved by Parks and Recreation Director Vance Garfield to repair the truck's water pump — fellow council members worried the city was being billed for unnecessary charges for Adams' personal property.
"There was an informal authorization to spend upward of $2,500 on repairs on the vehicle," Dougall said. "The actual repairs well exceeded that amount — more than double."
While the auditor said he didn't find any criminal wrongdoing, some of the charges — totalling $5,879 for items including truck repairs, banners, subwoofers, sound system equipment, and a fireworks igniter — were "questionable," lacked formal approval, and may have even been used for political purposes.
That's because a banner hanging on one of the firetruck's tankers in the parade read: "VoteForDaveAdams.com"
"If the banner hadn't been there, it would have been a whole different circumstance," Dougall said.
But Adams said he didn't mean to campaign using city money because he doesn't intend to run for re-election.
"Nobody tried to do anything to harm the citizens of Kaysville. We felt in our hearts that we were doing one of the greatest things we could be doing," he said, noting that the firetruck has been a popular city tradition.
While city policy allows a department director to approve up to $5,000 without a nod from the city manager, Dougall said Garfield "failed to clearly define the amounts and items" Adams was authorized to purchase.
Dougall recommended that Kaysville overhaul its city credit card practices by setting clear expectations on spending limits and minimize their use.
City Manager Shayne Scott said the City Council will likely discuss the audit, its recommendations and how the $5,800 bill will be paid at its Aug. 18 meeting.
"Our top priority is to ensure that sacred public funds are protected," Mayor Steve Hiatt said in an email Tuesday. "This (report) will provide valuable insight and guidance to the City Council in implementing policies that will ensure this kind of thing never happens again."
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