Salt Lake Council To Audit Rocky

Salt Lake Council To Audit Rocky

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City Council has called for an audit of Mayor Rocky Anderson's spending, saying he probably didn't follow procedure as his administration pursued an organ donor monument for Library Square.

The call for an audit of the mayor is a rare move and one that's being criticized by the city's organ-donation community, which is raising money to help pay for the Celebration of Life monument at Library Square. It's also caught the ire of Anderson, who isn't pleased with what he calls an unnecessary step.

"It would be a shame if the City Council or other individuals put a cloud over this monument, which means so much to thousands of families, especially when the bill isn't even due yet," said Ben Dieterle, spokesman for Intermountain Donor Services. "I'm personally confident it will be paid, considering how many people are working on fund raising."

Anderson joined audit criticism Monday, calling it a "waste of taxpayer's money." He noted that his administration has already admitted the mistakes that auditors would be paid to find.

"It's a complete waste of taxpayers' money because we've disclosed everything and conceded that mistakes were probably made," he said. "Nobody's hiding anything."

The audit is the latest development in a controversy that arose after it was revealed that donations to pay for the Celebration of Life monument were short by some $300,000. There are worries that the city or perhaps the city's library system could be left footing the remaining bill.

The monument contains a water wall with names of organ, tissue and blood donors etched in the wall, which sits on the southeast corner of Library Square, abutting 300 East and 500 South.

Maybe more important to council members than the funding gap is the way Anderson worked out the deal.

The monument was built by Big D Construction and was supposed to be funded by private donations, which Anderson and others pledged to raise. While those donations have been lacking, donor groups and the mayor have until the year's end to raise the needed cash.

"I spend several hours every single week working to raise money to pay the monument off," Anderson said. "I will continue doing that."

After questions arose about whether the public might be left holding the bag for the remaining money — about half what the monument cost to build — Anderson's administration informed the City Council of the shortfall.

After that, council staffers began investigating how the city ended up in this position.

"It's just one of these areas where Big Brother would have never had to find out about it if it had gone as planned," City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton said.

Usually, Anderson's administration would have to go to council members and ask them to set up a fund to pay for the monument. Even though the monument was to be paid for by private donations, some in City Hall believe Anderson should have come to the council and asked that a fund be established to accept the donations.

Instead, the administration didn't go through the council to set up a fund but had donations go directly to the contractor.

Councilmember Eric Jergensen maintained the audit is not a witch hunt.

"It's not an effort to trip anyone up or assign blame," he said. Council staffers plan to announce the commissioning of the audit in a public meeting. The audit, which is funded from the council's regular, yearly audit allocation, will focus on whether city procedures were followed and if any changes in city procedure need to be made.

(Copyright 2005 The Deseret Morning News)

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