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Erin Mendenhall and Kyle LaMalfa, who both sit on the seven-member Salt Lake City Council, confirmed that they are involved in a close personal relationship, but said it did not interfere with them fulfilling their duties and involved no misuse of their offices or public money.
The two issued separate statements to The Salt Lake Tribune in an effort to clear the air after Salt Lake City Weekly quoted unnamed sources earlier this month as saying they were engaged in an extramarital affair and traveled together to Minneapolis, Minn., in September on city business.
Mendenhall said the two ran the situation by the city attorney for possible ethical or legal problems and were advised there were none.
City Council Chairman Charlie Luke said he isn't aware of any adverse impact on the council or its members' job performance.
"I haven't seen anything in either their actions or their votes that is any different," Luke said. "This is not something that is impacting their job performance." Mendenhall said she and LaMalfa felt it necessary to talk about the relationship publicly to be transparent and also to take a stand against additional invasions of privacy. City Weekly is continuing to investigate the two, she said.
"I would have liked to make this announcement when my divorce is final," Mendenhall said in an interview. "It's premature but necessary to protect my family from the ongoing invasion of privacy."
City Weekly reporter Colby Frazier declined to comment at the instruction of his editors.
LaMalfa is not married and has no children. He represents District 2.
Mendenhall, who represents District 5, is the mother of two young boys and is in the process of divorcing Jared Mendenhall.
"As an elected official, I have accepted the possibility that my personal life can be pulled into the public conversation," she said in a prepared statement. "Though many have advised me to remain silent on personal matters, I feel I cannot do so while protecting my family and maintaining my commitment to transparency with the people of District 5."
Mendenhall said she and her husband have been working to make the best of a bad situation for her children.
"Though these family matters are personal and complicated, I feel disclosure is important, as another relationship has become a matter of public conversation," she said. "Fellow council member Kyle LaMalfa and I have developed a personal interest in one another."
The two had tried to keep their relationship private, Mendenhall said. Nonetheless, they advised City Attorney Margaret Plane of their intentions in an effort to determine whether their relationship would cause legal or ethical issues.
"We have been advised that there are none, at either the local or state level," Mendenhall said.
In an interview, LaMalfa confirmed the relationship but declined to comment further on it.
"Publicly disclosing our feelings is not required by law but seems appropriate to acknowledge, given that we are elected officials," he said in a prepared statement. "The situation is complex and the affected adults have been working toward a resolution for quite some time."
LaMalfa said he remains committed to representing District 2.
"I am a stalwart advocate of the west side and of this city," he said. "My commitment endures to continue representing the interests of the people of Salt Lake City into the future with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration."
Luke, the council chairman, said he has not witnessed any change in the way Mendenhall and LaMalfa approach their duties on the council. But public perception may be a different matter.
"From here on out, there will be a lot of scrutiny," he said. "That is something they'll have to deal with."