WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) -- Embattled Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman opened a candidate forum by apologizing for the "hullabaloo" -- an apparent reference to the allegations of misusing public funds against her.
Workman, who is on paid leave after being charged with two felonies, said at a West Jordan forum that she was sorry for all the "consternation it gives the whole community and all of the citizens."
"But I'm hopeful it will be resolved and we'll get a trial date here today or tomorrow and we'll get it all resolved so that you know what we know: that I'm innocent."
Workman, mayor of Utah's most populous county, is charged with misusing public money for allegedly diverting about $17,000 in health department funds to pay for a bookkeeper at a nonprofit organization where her daughter is a top officer.
Workman, who is seeking a second term, wants the case over before the election even though a felony case typically takes about a year to work its way through the court.
At the forum, Workman acknowledged the county scandals that have occurred on her watch: vehicle abuses by top officials, bookkeeping discrepancies in the Fine Arts Division and employee theft at the county Equestrian Park.
"It's getting cleaned up," she said. "It looks like it's not working, but it is. It's painful, but we're getting it cleaned up."
She also touted her creation of the county's first economic development office, the new Clark Planetarium and a focus on local businesses.
But her opponents, Democrat Peter Corroon and independent Merrill Cook criticized Workman's record, while Cook also focused his criticisms on Corroon, who is ahead in the polls.
Cook chided Corroon's "living wage" proposal, which would give preferred status in county contracts to companies that pay at least $9 an hour to every employee and provide health insurance.
"It is a laudable goal," Cook said. "The trouble with the living wage is it has an unintended consequence of driving businesses right out of town." Cook predicted such a plan would raise county expenses by $70 million.
Corroon disputed that and said the plan would apply when two companies are bidding on a county contract for services and there is essentially no difference between the two bids. In that case, the business paying a living wage would get the contract.
Workman did not address the living-wage proposal.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)