City documents obtained Thursday show Mayor Rocky Anderson signed off on a set of policies that included Salt Lake City's no-alcohol rule just two years ago.
In 2003, Anderson put his name to the administrative policy forbidding the use of city tax dollars to purchase alcoholic beverages, according to city documents filed with the Salt Lake City Recorder's Office.
The 2003 documents were created as Anderson amended administrative policies of former Mayor Deedee Corradini. Two years ago, Anderson sought to amend the policies to give greater recognition to city employees.
Anderson signed the revised policy on March 13, 2003, on its second page, the same page that included the provision against alcohol.
The mayor said Thursday when he signed the document he looked only at the portions that were being amended and didn't notice the provision on alcohol.
"There are policies that are brought to me all the time to change certain provisions, and my interest will be directed to those" changes, Anderson said.
The mayor maintains he was unaware of that no-alcohol provision when he paid two bar tabs — one for $457.88 and the other for $175.86 — with his city credit card in July. How much went for alcohol and how much for food isn't stated on the bills, incurred 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.
Thursday, Anderson criticized the Morning News' coverage of the incident, complaining that the newspaper had mischaracterized the bills as "bar tabs." The mayor said the smaller bill — from a local brew pub — was mostly a dinner bill, even though it included some beer.
On the larger $457 bill — which came from a private club — he was less clear. The mayor maintains because other people paid portions of the tabs during the evening, he might have just paid for food portions and cover charges for his party of some 20 people.
He said he couldn't recall exactly what food was served. "There was variety of different things on a tray."
He declined to estimate what portion of the larger bill was for alcohol. He also didn't explain why on his expense report he listed specific names of people he'd paid for.
"You guys are embarrassing yourselves," Anderson said of the Morning News' coverage. "How many inches of your newspaper are you going to devote to this inane topic?"
He said the paper should be focusing on important issues like childhood asthma, which could be pollution-related, along the Wasatch Front instead of "venting your editor's bias against me on your front page."
The paper is "doing a disservice to your readers and really a disservice to the entire state," he said.
As chief executive officer, Anderson said its his purview to suspend administrative policies when he chooses.
The mayor's decision to change the alcohol policy — so that city employees can purchase alcohol with city funds — drew words of caution from one of Anderson's biggest critics.
Salt Lake County Republican County Chairman James Evans, who lives in Salt Lake City, said Anderson should be careful. If city funds are used to purchase alcohol, the city could be held responsible in court for drunken driving accidents or other incidents related to that alcohol consumption, he said.
City attorney Ed Rutan said he hasn't considered the liability issue. However, he says traditionally such cases are directed at the bar or tavern that served the alcohol, not the person who paid for it.
"Usually when people are concerned about the responsibility, the responsibility lies with the person who provided the alcoholic beverage," he said. The city spent tax dollars on alcohol during the 2002 Winter Games — again in violation of city policy.
"I personally was not aware of a prohibition on purchases of alcohol with city funds," former Olympic coordinator John Sittner said in a statement. "As a result, the donations that we received were not segregated but were instead commingled with all of the revenue and expenses associated with the city Olympic effort, including the serving of alcohol at various official functions and receptions. "There was no effort to hide the source of funds," Sittner stated, "nor was there any effort to present the functions as anything other than the city being the most professional and gracious host to the world that we could be."