Herriman City Council is demanding the resignation of Mayor David Watts, whom they have accused of misusing city funds. Mayor Watts, however, has refused to give up his seat.
The Council claims that Mayor Watts misused his city credit card, putting taxpayers on the line for more than $1,000 in unapproved expenses about six months ago.
When the issue was first brought up, Mayor Watts offered to repay the money out of his own pocket. But Watts, the council says, didn’t make good on his promise until after the council issued its ultimatum, saying the six month-delay created issues of trust. Now, council members say, they are threatening to seriously limit his power until he resigns.
The allegations against Mayor David Watts
The allegations against Mayor David Watts stem from two trips made to and from Washington D.C about six months ago.
During the trips, Council members say, Mayor Watts used his city credit card 21 times. When he returned, however, he only provided the city with two receipts.
Those 19 undocumented purchases amounted to about $1,200 worth of unjustified purchases made at the city’s expense, according to Councilwoman Nicole Martin.
The bulk of his spending came from a flight the Mayor made back to Utah when he decided to leave a congressional delegation earlier that he’d originally planned. City Council says that trip was unnecessary and overly expensive, including a $690.80 plane ticket and an overnight stay in an extravagant hotel that cost $166.09 more than the city’s approved rate for rooms.
City Finance Director Alan Rae took the mayor to task over his undocumented charges, saying during a November meeting: “Frankly, I’ve never seen a case this bad in terms of lack of documentation.”
When the charges were first brought up on July 11th, the mayor said that he would reimburse the city out of his own pocket. For more than five months, however, Mayor Watts failed to go through with his promise.
City Council looked into pressing charges against the mayor through the District Attorney’s office, but they declined, saying that “the interests of justice are not served by filing a criminal charge.”
Instead, the council met yesterday, on Dec. 12th, to issue a formal reprimand against the mayor. Councilwoman Nicole Martin read the reprimand aloud during the meeting, which was live-streamed on Facebook for every member of the city to see.
“Should you choose not to resign,” she told the mayor, “we will formally remove you from all of your assigned board and committee positions.”
Watts, however, refused, telling the council: “I believe that time and my continued service to you will reflect my integrity.”
Councilwoman Nicole Martin on the city’s frustration
Councilwoman Nicole Martin spoke with KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic to explain why about $1,000 in undocumented expenses is such a serious matter to her and her fellow council members.
“The dollar amount is insignificant to the lack of trust that we now have to deal with,” Martin told Dave & Dujanovic. “Had he dealt with this July 11th, it would have been a blip on the radar. We would have moved on.”
The mayor’s failure to go through with his promise to pay the city back, she said, was what really brought on their demand for his resignation.
“What we have now is a six-month delay that, in our view, has completely eroded the trust that we have worked to build up with our citizenry. And for us, that is unacceptable and worthy of the reprimand that we put forward last night.”
The council plans on doing everything in the power to pressure the mayor into resigning, according to Martin. Martin said that until Watts gives up his post, he will be barred from the city’s boards and commissions, his salary will be decreased, and the council will ensure that everyone in the community is aware that the mayor does not speak for their or their city.
“In Herriman, … every member on the council – and we have five – has one vote, with the majority of those votes carrying the day,” she said. “The mayor, in this incidence, is just one of five.”
The council members themselves have voluntarily given up their city credit cards and, in addition to asking him to resign, they are asking the mayor to give up his card, as well.
“What we want to do is look at our policies with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that we are eliminating any chance of this happening again,” Martin said. “We see no need for an elected official to have a credit card, and we will have our employees take care of travel expenses.”
Mayor Watts has now paid the approximately $1,200 the council requested from him, Martin announced on the air with KSL Newsradio, saying that he handed over the funds after the city made the ultimatum.
At this point, however, she doesn’t believe that’s enough to make amends. She told Dave & Dujanovic: “He has not made restitution.”
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