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John Daley ReportingAfter being rocked by a series of corruption scandals Salt Lake County policy makers have passed a series of tougher ethics measures.
This past year the words "Salt Lake County” and "corruption” were often linked. Today the county council unanimously passed an ethics reform package, which they hope changes that public perception.
2004 saw a tsunami of scandal; first county leaders driving county SUVS filled with county-paid-for gas. "Guzzlergate" revealed many abuses, including the theft of $10,000 in gas by the Auditor. Then a story about Mayor Nancy Workman who used health department money to hire bookkeepers working directly for her daughter at the Boys and Girls Club.
Republicans lost the mayor's office and a seat on the county council. Today the council sent a message to citizens and passed a multi-faceted ethics reform package.
Alan Dayton, (R) Acting County Mayor: "It's certainly the final chapter of this government of the past four years. The final chapter is that this is the most comprehensive ethics reform that has been seen in Salt Lake County and probably in the state of Utah by any local government."
Joe Hatch, (D) County Council Member: “Watergate spawned a lot of election reform. Guzzlergate has spawned reform here, and this is a result of that.”
In her reelection race Workman got a nearly $28,000 campaign contribution from the company Utah Barricade. The new rules cap campaign contributions at $5000 for countywide races, ban county contractors from contributing to county candidates, eliminate car allowances, and require county lobbyists to register.
Steve Harmsen, (R) County Council Chairman: "There's three or four basic issues that we have tackled and we have broken ground on and you can't find them anywhere else in the state of Utah."
The new mayor says the new rules are a good start, but he'd like to see more.
Peter Corroon, (D) County Mayor-Elect: "We can have contractors listed on the website so everybody in the public knows who is doing business in the county. We can also have limitations on gifts. We don't want people within in the county taking gifts from contractors."
Now that Salt Lake County has addressed this issue it will be interesting to see if state lawmakers follow suit. Governor-elect Jon Huntsman is advocating changes to state rules, but in past years ethics reform has often gone nowhere on Capitol Hill.