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The City Journals

Herriman mayor comes under fire for irresponsible spending on trips to D.C.

Nov 21, 2018 02:16PM ● By Justin Adams

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

During its Nov. 14 work meeting, the Herriman City Council addressed alleged irresponsible spending made by Mayor David Watts on two trips to Washington D.C. earlier this year. 

City Finance Director Alan Rae laid out the details in question, which included using a city credit card for non-city business, exceeding the recommended limit for travel expenses and failing to provide receipts for expenses. 

During the two trips, Watts’ city credit card ran 21 transactions. Only two receipts were provided by the mayor, according to Councilwoman Nicole Martin. 

“Frankly, I’ve never seen a case this bad in terms of lack of documentation,” said Rae during the meeting. 

Watts’ first trip to Washington D.C. was for an annual visit that Herriman city officials make to visit with Utah’s congressional delegation. At the end of the trip, Watts used a city credit card to purchase a different flight home than the rest of the attendees that included an overnight layover in Denver, where he stayed at a hotel that “seriously exceeded [the city’s] per diem rate,” according to Rae. Watts ended up arriving in Salt Lake only “a few hours” earlier than the rest of the Herriman officials, said Martin, who also went on the trip.

Watts’ second trip to Washington D.C. was to attend the American Mosquito Control Association’s annual Washington conference, as a representative of the South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District. 

According to Rae, that trip did not constitute Herriman city business so the mayor’s credit card should not have been used at all. Instead, he used it multiple times at a hotel, to pay for Uber rides and to, once again, buy a seat on a flight home “a few hours earlier” than the flight that had already been paid for by the Mosquito Abatement. 

This issue was initially raised during a council meeting on July 11. At that time, the mayor reportedly told council members he had only just been informed of the problems half an hour earlier. However, Rae said that he had informed the mayor of the issue weeks earlier, on June 26. 

During the July meeting, Watts promised to fully pay the city back for what he had spent. 

“It’s public money. We should be held to a higher standard,” he said at the time.

However, over four months later, the mayor had made no effort to repay the city, said Rae. 

After hearing from concerned residents who wanted to know if the money had ever been paid back, the council decided to address the situation again during its Nov. 14 meeting. 

The council expected Watts to attend the meeting, and he had indicated as recently as the previous Friday that he planned to attend. But on the morning of the meeting, the council received an email from the mayor saying he was going out of town for the rest of the week and that he had acquired legal counsel who advised him not to participate in any meetings in which the issue is discussed. 

“He’s very well aware that this was on the agenda tonight,” said Councilwoman Sherrie Ohrn. “It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t be here tonight.”

Attempts by the South Valley Journal to reach Mayor Watts for comment were not returned. 

At the conclusion of the work meeting, the city council decided city credit cards would no longer be given to elected officials. When traveling, officials will now pay for expenses with their personal cards, then submit receipts for approved purchases to the city for reimbursement. (Most of the Herriman city councilors said they already follow this method voluntarily.)

The council also elected to draft an official letter of written reprimand for the mayor. The letter will demand that the mayor repay $935 to the city, an amount that Martin described as the total of the card’s charges which were “outside of the city’s purchasing policy.”

That letter will be read during the city’s next city council meeting, slated for Dec. 12.