Salt Lake City Mayor Pays Refund, Sets Spending Review Policy

Salt Lake City Mayor Pays Refund, Sets Spending Review Policy

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson will pay back a $457 tab he racked up at a downtown hotel last summer and set up a committee to review city employee expenses.

Anderson's bill raised eyebrows at City Hall because it included paying for alcoholic drinks consumed by visiting mayors from cities outside of Utah. That was against a city policy Anderson said he didn't know about. He's since changed the policy.

In a written statement released Friday, Anderson explains the expenses, which were incurred during the city's July International Jazz Festival, and says he's repaid the amount to city coffers.

Anderson doesn't think he broke the law or did anything unethical. He initially refused to pay back the expenses, but by Friday had changed his mind.

"This is the best way to handle it. It's doing what I think is the right thing at this point, just to move on," he said.

Also on Friday, Anderson circulated a new city policy, establishing an Expense Review Committee to examine all expenses and reimbursements incurred by city employees, except those under the purview of the City Council. The committee will also review the expenses of city-appointed boards and commissions.

The three-member committee will make twice yearly reports of expense reviews and post its findings on the city Web site. The committee membership will be by appointment. The mayor's office and the City Council each will appoint one member, with the third member selected by the other two.

Anderson said the policy is an attempt to provide transparency and accountability. Although he signed it Friday, the policy doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, with the first committee report due next August.

Currently the public can view city spending records, but only after making a records request.

The new policy does not apply to the City Council or its staff.

Councilman Eric Jergensen supports Anderson's policy and said he would be willing to post his city expenses online.

"Government needs to be as transparent as possible," Jergensen said.

Anderson said he also plans to post all of the expenses he's accrued since entering office in 2000. He calculates that total to be an average of $90 per month for meals, or about $6,300 total.

His statement also calls for the City Council and the Legislature to establish a gift ban similar to the one he put in place in 2000. The ban forbids all city employees (except for council workers) from accepting gifts of any kind, even a cup of coffee.

"I urge the City Council to adopt a gift ban applying to Council members and employees under the control of the Council ... ," the statement said. "Similarly, I urge all other elected officials in Utah, including the Utah State Legislature, to adopt a ban on gifts, which the vast majority of Utahns has favored for many years."

The new policy announcement comes after Salt Lake County Republican leaders called for the county district attorney to investigate spending by Anderson, a Democrat.

County GOP Chairman James Evans questioned Anderson's expenses for a city trip to deliver an Olympic message to Torino, Italy, last summer. Evans contends some on the excursion, including Anderson's girlfriend and some of his friends, may have inappropriately been reimbursed for expenses.

Anderson said most of the trip was paid for through private donations.

County Democratic Chairwoman Megan Risbon has joined in asking for an investigation.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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