Three years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were the toast of the baseball world. They won the National League pennant and beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. They were the top of the heap. It's almost incalculable that as of this writing they have mathematically clinched the worst record this season in the major leagues.

In the spirit of public service, I bring up the rather sudden plummet of the Diamondbacks for the benefit of the Republican-dominated Salt Lake County government.

It can happen to the best of them.


Three years ago, being a Republican in Salt Lake County's new mayor-council form of government was a grand old thing. Barely a year after taking over from the oft-disparaged County Commission, the new regime, with Mayor Nancy Workman and six of the nine council members Republicans, won rave reviews. Few tax increases and rate hikes. Improved services. A credit rating like a Rockefeller.

Damage control? Who needed it? Cruising around in their public-supplied SUVs, the county leaders were riding higher than, well, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But beware of prosperity. Like John Wooden said, the hardest thing about getting to the top is staying there.

Three years later, with five weeks left before Election Day 2004, the county government in general, and the Republican majority in particular, is reeling after a summer that brought several relatively minor indiscretions — if we're using, say, a Mayor Daley Chicago scale — to light. They include Mayor Workman's dispersal of public funds through improper channels (she seems to have owned up at least to that much) and using county credit cards to buy gasoline for private use by Craig Sorensen, the county auditor; Greg Curtis, the mayor's legal counsel; and Randy Allen, the county's chief financial officer.

All told, the misuse of public monies from all of the above is less than $40,000, a paltry amount that wouldn't even buy a Michael Moore speech and is almost certainly substantially less than the money Sorensen, Workman, Curtis and Allen saved for county residents through competent management.

If everyone had fallen on their sword like Sorensen — who took his rap straight up — or even like Curtis and Allen, who resigned and haven't blamed everyone else for their troubles, the sins of the leaders might be survivable.

But what's sent the Republicans on their skid to the cellar is Workman's dogged refusal to take one for the team.

She has ignored the common sense case against her — not the criminal case, but her obvious circumvention of the checks-and-balances as she helped her daughter — as stubbornly as she has ignored the crumbling walls all around her.

Her troubles are all political attacks. The Democrats are out to get her. She is a scapegoat. The litany of excuses goes on and on. Last week, when radio newsman Doug Fabrizio asked Workman about her insinuations that even some Republicans are on District Attorney Dave Yocom's posse, she responded by storming out of the studio. The Utah media was astounded. Not that a politician would walk out of an interview, but that it would be an interview with Doug Fabrizio, a nice man about as combative as Gandhi.

Meanwhile, the election draws ever nearer, like a precipice for all county Republcians, who like it or not live in the house Workman has set afire.

With six of the county's incumbent Republicans up for re-election on Nov. 2, counting Workman, and zero incumbent Democrats, there's a lot less to gain than there is to lose.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.