Former Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini said Wednesday she used a separate, privately raised fund, not taxpayer dollars, whenever she bought alcohol for visitors as the city's chief executive.
"I felt it was inappropriate" to use tax dollars to pay for alcohol, Corradini said. "To me alcohol is a kind of extra and something that I personally didn't feel comfortable asking the taxpayers to pay for. Plus it was against city policy so all the more reason."
That policy may be about to go the way of the dodo.
Mayor Rocky Anderson said Wednesday he will eliminate — "as soon as I can get the paperwork done" — the Corradini-era policy against spending city tax dollars on alcoholic beverages.
"It's that kind of alcohol policy that makes us look absolutely foolish to the rest of the world," Anderson said. He joked that he may substitute the alcohol ban with a "prohibition on high-fat content desserts."
The move came a day after it was revealed that Anderson was reimbursed in July for two sizeable bar tabs — including both food and drink — one for $457.88 and another for $175.86, from city tax dollars. How much went for alcohol and how much for food aren't stated on the bills, which are from July, when Anderson hosted Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival musicians and other mayors here for the Sundance Summit — A Mayor's Gathering on Climate Protection, which Anderson and Robert Redford helped organize.
Corradini was responding to Anderson's claim he wasn't the only city official to neglect the alcohol policy.
"You don't think Mayor Corradini bought drinks for IOC members?" he said.
Unlike Anderson, Corradini didn't have a city credit card and would instead use her personal card for purchases, she said. When she would file for reimbursement from the city she would simply subtract the cost of the alcohol from her bill.
Moreover, whenever she hosted gala events she would have all the alcohol donated by local restaurants.
Corradini said the money for the fund was donated at mayoral galas.
"That's even worse," Anderson said of Corradini's approach. "There you're going to have people, mostly developers, pay for it instead of having it disclosed and paid for out of the general fund."
Anthony Musci, director of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Utah, agrees on that point.
"I would much rather see — if this is legitimate city business — I would much rather see it funded by the taxpayer than special-interest groups," he said.
However, Musci said Anderson needs to do a better job disclosing who he's paying for so the public can determine whether the expenditures really had much to do with city business or not.
On both submissions for reimbursement of the tabs, the mayor listed a few people by name and "other jazz festival participants" on one bill and "others" on another.
"You owe something to the taxpayer," Musci said. "If you're going to use taxpayer funds it should be well-documented. If part of the purpose for documentation is for people to judge whether appropriate city business is being conducted you have to know who's involved and why."
Anderson estimated some 20 people were part of his group that ran up the $457 tab. Tuesday he said Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Ore., was part of that group. On Wednesday, he said he was mistaken. Anderson only disclosed seven people on his reimbursement statement, saying "there were several people that actually came in and left," so it was difficult to determine who he was paying for, especially because other people picked up part of the tab as the night wore on.
Councilwoman Nancy Saxton met with the mayor Wednesday and told him he should pay the city back for the money he spent on alcohol. After all, the expenditures were against city policy, she said.
"Citizens that have a moral stand against alcohol wouldn't want their money to pay for that," she said.
Saxton said the mayor should have known the policy, since it was an administrative one.
"How does it make Salt Lake City look when the mayor has a policy and he calls it stupid and chooses not to abide by it?" Saxton said. "We don't even have enough confidence in our own polices to follow them. How does that make Salt Lake City look?"
Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman James Evans said it's not smart for Anderson to end the ban.
"Basically, if he removes it, any city official can start buying alcohol," Evans said. "We should have an advertisement, 'Come to Salt Lake City drinks are on us.' "
Drinks were on the taxpayers in the city's recent history. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city often paid for liquor at the various receptions and galas it hosted, said Talitha Day, who was a city contractor hired to organize those Olympic-related events.
Day said Wednesday she had to get every expenditure, including those for alcohol, approved by the city. Back then nobody said anything about the alcohol policy.
"As I understand it, the funds were allocated by the city to host receptions," she said. "It was paid for by the city, which is what every other Olympic city did."