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South Salt Lake • The City Council has adopted an anti-nepotism law that prohibits future hiring of family members of elected city officials. The measure will not affect the five relatives of Mayor Cherie Wood already on the city payroll two brothers, a sister-in-law and, in part-time jobs, two sons.
Wednesday's 6-1 vote came on the heels of Wood's veto earlier this month of a proposed ordinance that would have gone further, including requiring public disclosure of relationships between city elected officials and employees.
The council had considered attempting an override of the veto but decided instead to draft a new law.
This one passed with the mayor's blessing. She said the earlier veto was based on her concern about the process and she complained that the previous council proposal and discussion felt like a personal attack.
"Because the ordinance was rushed and pushed through, it did require a veto to address the concerns," Wood said. "I have nothing against the nepotism ordinance if that's the way this body feels."
Some council members agreed that the matter wasn't a personal bone to pick with the mayor and said that concerns about a weak anti-nepotism law came straight from their constituents.
"I've had this on my list for two and a half years since I've been elected, to deal with the nepotism situation," said councilman Kevin Rapp. "This is something that many, many citizens brought to my attention when I was on the campaign trail."
Debbie Snow said that since the mayor's veto propelled the issue into the news, at least a dozen people from her district called her asking her not to back off from the issue.
Portia Mila, the one dissenting vote on the council, disagreed. Her constituents haven't brought it up and she maintains that there were ways to address the issue without muddying the water by adding additional requirements to an existing nepotism statute in state code. That law prohibits direct hiring or supervision of relatives.
Most of the public comments at the meeting were also about the tiff between the council and mayor. Two residents encouraged the council in its efforts to crack down on conflicts of interest, and another woman simply didn't want her city appearing in the news for leaders making decisions based on who they like and who they don't like.
The group pinpointed communication failure as the main problem and set future expectations to improve it, including delivering notices far enough in advance for lawyers to study and hammer out problems and speaking up if something doesn't feel right.
Several council members noted that at the earlier contentious meeting, Wood didn't articulate her concerns during or after the discussion and didn't warn the council of her forthcoming veto.
"That's one thing I have noticed is there's not a lot of working together," said Ben Pender, a new councilman. "I would ask that the staff and the council, we start doing a better job in working together. I'm committed to it."