This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake City Fire Chief Brian Dale may have a conflict of interest with the firm that provides emergency dispatch protocols to Salt Lake City but that didn't sway former Mayor Ralph Becker or the City Council when he was appointed and confirmed last year.
Things may change, however, under Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who says her administration will revisit the issue.
"We will definitely look into it," she said Friday.
The mayor said that both the potential conflict of interest and Dale's time away from the office may be cause for concern.
Dale, who was appointed fire chief in May, has been connected to Priority Dispatch and its nonprofit affiliate, the International Association of Emergency Dispatchers (IAED), for over 25 years. According to its website, the association is "an academy that develops and maintains dispatch protocols and curriculum for member use in response to emergency calls for help." Both organizations have headquarters in Salt Lake City.
While he was deputy chief, Dale said he taught classes at IAED conferences earning $20,000 to $30,000 annually. As deputy chief, the city paid him a salary of $110,116 and benefits worth $11,116, for a total package of $121,232.
Dale's promotion to chief brought his salary up to $146,880 with benefits of $19,094, for a total package of $165,974.
Dale said in the City Council confirmation hearing in May and later in a Tribune interview that he has not abused his office or broken the public trust. IAED pays for Dale's travel and expenses at conferences across the U.S. and in Europe.
In 2012, for example, he spent over 40 days at various conferences, according to his computerized calendar. However, city officials say the calendars are not an official record, but only a planning tool that is often fluid among top executives.
Dale said he was not paid by the city on days when he taught classes at conferences.
In 2013 and 2014, Dale's attendance at conferences was equivalent to 20 and 23 days, respectively, if his calendar is accurate.
When he speaks to IAED audiences, he is paid $350 a day by the organization, according to a report from City Attorney Margaret Plane.
At that rate, however, Dale would have to speak on 57 occasions to earn $19,950, if speaking fees are his only remuneration from IAED.
On some conference days when he did not teach, he was paid by the municipality, Dale said, because it relates directly to his responsibilities at the fire department.
First review • In the run-up to his confirmation, the city attorney reviewed Dale's fire department position and his relationship with IAED and Priority Dispatch. The review came after Becker and the council received an anonymous letter questioning Dale's outside work and a potential conflict of interest.
Plane determined that as deputy chief, Dale did not have a conflict of interest, according to city ordinances.
But in her report she added: "If Dale receives the City Council's advice and consent for his appointment as fire chief, he will be one member of a five-member board that oversees the 911 Center [that receives technological services from Priority Dispatch]," Plane said. "Although it is not clear under the ordinance, Dale's role on the board could amount to him being part of the department that is doing business with Priority Dispatch [and therefore have a conflict]."
Plane continued, however, that city code does allow for a waiver of its conflict of interest ordinance if: "The public servant will be able to perform his or her official functions without actual bias or favoritism; and the granting of the waiver will not be detrimental to the interest of the city."
The city attorney also noted that although Dale takes time away from his duties at the fire department, "he is permitted to take (vacation and holiday) time for any purpose."
"Further," Plane wrote, "his work with IAED should be considered professional development, which benefits the city."
Not least, Priority Dispatch, through an endowment, makes its products available to Salt Lake City at no charge.
The council confirmed Dale by a vote of 6 to 1 with former Council Chairman Luke Garrott casting the lone dissenting vote.
In the May hearing, Garrott wondered aloud why Becker had not initiated a national search for a new fire chief. He also questioned Dale about his work with IAED and time away from his departmental duties.
"I'm worried about incentives that would tempt the chief to spend time away from the office," Garrott said.
But Councilman Charlie Luke countered that Dale was a good candidate for the position. "I'm looking over Chief Dale's information and we have a pretty dang good idea of how Chief Dale will perform," Luke said. "We have a very well documented record of his behavior."
In an interview in December, David Everitt, chief of staff for Becker, said Dale had done an exceptional job as deputy chief and his outside activities were not a concern.
Conflict waiver? • Although City Council members recall voting for Dale's confirmation, they remain unsure about the conflict of interest waiver. None said they remember voting for a waiver.
In an interview, Councilman Stan Penfold noted that Dale had disclosed the potential conflict and the majority of the council determined that his relationship with IAED was not detrimental to the city.
"I think it was a pretty unique situation," Penfold said. "These things should be taken on a case-by-case basis. We got a legal opinion and that's the way they should be treated."
According to Dale's computerized calendar and payroll records, he was out of the office 32 days in 2012 for which he was paid by the city and not labeled as vacation. The Tribune obtained the records from the municipality through the state Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).
For example, according to his calender and pay records, Dale attended an IAED instructor academy in 2012 from Oct. 8-12 and was paid by the city for four of those five days.
From Nov. 7-9, 2012, Dale attended an emergency dispatchers conference in Indiana and was paid by the city for all three days.
From Nov 14-16, 2012, he attended a Los Angeles Police Department conference and was paid for all three days by the city.
In 2013 from June 3-5, Dale was in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., under a calendar designation of "out of office" and was paid by the city for all three days.
From Aug. 31, 2010, to April 17, 2015, he was "out of office" with no other explanation 38 times. The computerized calendar code also lists "DBL" for "department business leave." Dale used that code on his calendar 11 times during that same period.
According to Garrott, Dale likely has done nothing illegal. But the question remains, he said, do we want a department head or fire chief spending that much time away from city responsibilities?