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Some cleansing in county

Workman names panel to look into use of vehicles

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Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman on Wednesday announced the formation of a five-member panel to look into county vehicle use.

The panel, a who's who of Utah's corporate, legal, accounting and fleet management world, will look into existing vehicle use policies and determine whether they are being followed and if the practices are sound.

Workman emphasized that the panel's primary mission is not to investigate employees who have run afoul of county policy, although panel member Glen Watkins, a prominent local attorney, said "we will be looking back in some small degree to get a frame of reference."

Auditor Craig Sorensen and chief financial officer Randy Allen have lost their jobs over the scandal, and Sorensen has been charged with misusing public monies. Workman's senior counsel, Greg Curtis, has also been under scrutiny.

The panel will be given carte blanche authority to investigate what it considers important and to recommend whatever it chooses, Workman said.

"Nothing will be held back."

This is a political year, but Workman maintains the panel is non-partisan and non-political, and Watkins agreed.

"She did not know my political leanings because she did not ask," he said. (He leans Democratic. Workman is a Republican.)

Workman's mayoral race opponent, however, Democrat Peter Corroon, begs to differ.

"There's nothing wrong with getting some outside input and constructive criticism," he said. "It's something else to create a panel for political purposes, to put an end to a scandal and move on without full accountability."

One of Corroon's staffers was denied entrance to Workman's announcement.

As head of county government, Workman has taken some political hits over the scandal (though no one has accused her of any personal wrongdoing), but she said she chooses to look at the situation positively.

"Oddly enough, I think this is good," she said last week. "This is an opportunity to fix things that have been a problem for a long time."

"Frankly, I wish I'd done it a long time ago," she said Wednesday. "Not because of recent media attention, but because of the change for the better I know this panel will bring."

In that, at least, Corroon agrees, saying the "culture of privilege" in the county's upper echelons needed to be addressed long ago.

When asked if she planned to apologize for the scandal, however, Workman said no.

"I haven't done anything wrong. But we do want to make things better."

The panel's primary focus will be vehicle use, though it may expand that mandate if members desire. Its members had not officially convened by Wednesday, so its timetable and procedures are somewhat up in the air, but Watkins said he anticipates a report being issued by July 16.

E-mail: aedwards@desnews.com