Herriman Mayor, amidst calls for his resignation, apologizes for misuse of city funds
Herriman Mayor David Watts has formally apologized for his alleged misuse of $1,244.85 in city funds.
Recently, his fellow city council members had called for his resignation over the scandal. They criticized him, during a Dec. 12th meeting, for failing to go through with an earlier promise to repay the city and threatened to cut his salary and stifle his role in city affairs if he did not agree to resign.
Watts did repay the city by the end of Dec. 12th, but he has refused to step down.
The apology letter he put up on his website Monday night marks the first time the mayor has formally commented on the controversy.
Mayor David Watts’s apology
The scandal began when Herriman city council members accused Mayor David Watts of making a series of inappropriate purchases with his city credit card. Most of those purchases involved securing an early flight home during a trip to Washington D.C., for which Watts bought a $690.80 plane ticket and a hotel room that exceeded the city’s approved rate by $166.09.
Not only were those purchases billed to the taxpayers, city council members say, but Watts only provided two receipts for the 21 purchases he made with his city credit card.
When they first brought the issue up on July 11th, the mayor offered to repay the city for the expenses. Watts, however, did not pay them back until they demanded his resignation five months later.
Until now, Watts has never explained why he waited so long to pay the city back. In his apology letter posted on Monday, however, he explained it for the first time.
In the letter, he says that, until Dec. 12th, the city council didn’t give him an itemized list of the amounts he needed to repay. Without them, he says, he had no way of knowing how much money he owed.
That problem was compounded, Watt says, when the city council brought the issue to the District Attorney’s office and looked into pressing charges against him.
Terrified by the possibility of criminal charges, Watts spoke to an attorney, who recommended he wait until the DA’s office completed their investigation before trying to resolve the situation with the city. Until then, he says, he was ordered not to make any statements about it, be they in public or in private.
“This went against everything inside me that has always valued transparency,” Watts says in his letter, “but I was repeatedly reminded that the stakes had been raised, as a criminal trial could have serious consequences for the City, myself, and my family — and I just needed to be patient and let the system do its job.”
Watts says that, after the DA office completed their review and opted not to press charges, he “promptly” turned in all the documentation.
“I take full responsibility for my failure to follow policy,” Watts says. “I apologize that my attempt to explain my actions came across as unapologetic and defensive.”
Councilwoman Nicole Martin responds
City Council member Nicole Martin, who first called for Watt’s resignation, told KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic that the apology was “a step in the right direction.”
She criticized him, however, for justifying his actions, saying: “An apology, in this case, should have only had two words included, and that’s: ‘I’m sorry.’ Period.”
Despite his apology, she says that the city will not reverse course on lowering his salary or stripping him of his responsibilities.
“We have said, in our disciplinary memo, that we will remove him from all boards and commissions,” Martin told Dave & Dujanovic. “That is what we will do.”
However, she now referred to stripping the mayor of his power as something they would do for a “trial period” and said city council would “revisit” the decision later on.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Martin said. “It doesn’t make sense to have a council member that’s not carrying the load equal to the others.”
She feels that City Council has a duty to the people of Herriman to go through with the punishment, saying that it’s a matter of “following through with our word.” She says, however, that city council just wants to “make a point” and move on.
“I hold no grudges,” Martin says. “I want to move forward in a positive way with the mayor and I hope that is the way he is feeling as well.”