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Layton mayor: Bankruptcy 'humbling' but he will continue to serve
Bankruptcy » After becoming unemployed, Steve Curtis said, 'the credit got away from me.'

By Cathy McKitrick

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published July 8, 2010 12:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Steve Curtis, who last November secured a second term as Layton's mayor, filed for bankruptcy this March after losing his most recent job to downsizing.

"Many middle-class families have been affected by job reductions and eliminations," Curtis said Saturday, reached at home. "There are a lot of people out there looking for work now, myself included."

The idea of filing bankruptcy was distasteful and something he had hoped to avoid, Curtis added.

"The attitude was that you buck up and get with it -- that's still my focus," Curtis said. "But at the same time, the credit got away from me because of the job situation."

Such is the case for many Utahns in financial crisis, said Ryan Carver, housing counseling director for the nonprofit AAA Fair Credit Foundation.

"That's 99.5 percent of the population," Carver said of those who use credit to keep afloat, banking that their next job is just around the corner.

"Most people have that mentality and it's Russian roulette," he said, adding that the safest bet is to scale back expenses to match income.

As part-time mayor of Davis County's largest city -- where about 67,000 people reside -- Curtis receives an annual salary of $21,800, along with a vehicle allowance of $800 per month.

Curtis said he intends to continue to fulfill his mayoral duties. He also gets a small stipend for serving as board director of Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District -- which encompasses Layton's burn plant and landfill.

"I have broken no law; there is no reason for me to resign," he said, explaining that Layton's council-city manager form of government means that he seldom votes on issues and mostly serves as the city's promoter.

"I take that job very seriously and plan to continue," Curtis said. "And it has been very humbling to receive the support of many who can relate to the situation."

How his constituents judge him remains to be seen, said Kelly Patterson, director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, noting that voters are more forgiving for personal circumstances perceived as beyond the individual's control.

"The question is, what kind of responsibility and influence does he have over the budget," Patterson said.

And it's the kind of negative personal news that voters may retain in their minds when the 2013 mayor election comes around, Patterson added.

The 55-year-old Curtis -- father of four, along with a nephew he raised and considers a son -- said his family has "always tried to be a frugal group. We don't have toys. We can have fun, but its not the boats and the jet-skis."

In 2006, before the economic crash, Curtis said he decided to retire from 29 years at Qwest because the 14 to 16-hour work days left him no time for his family. He took his pension in one lump sum and reinvested the funds.

"Over time the economy tanked and so did my investments," Curtis said.

After leaving Qwest, he hired on with another company but left the second day because of hiring practices he witnessed that "went against" his integrity, he said.

He served short-term as a consultant as Taipan Trading set up in Clearfield, and then worked as online banking manager for First National Bank before the economy forced the community bank to downsize.

Court documents show Curtis having assets worth $263,108 and debts totalling $386,913. With first and second mortgages combined, he owed $246,899 on a home valued at $220,000.

His liabilities included a $23,500 debt to the Internal Revenue Service for 2008 income taxes.

Court records show he donated $2,000 to the LDS Church in 2009. He and wife Rae Lynn Curtis had combined monthly incomes of $4,178.

Carver said he doesn't know the details of Curtis's situation, but views credit as a "handout" rather than a fix.

"We have a joke here -- that 60 is the new 20," Carver said. In other words, the average credit card debt in 2003 was $60,000. That figure has mushroomed to $60,000.

"It used to be a rare feat when we'd talk to someone with more than $100,000 in credit card debt. Now one in four or five reach that mark."

cmckitrick@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">cmckitrick@sltrib.com



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