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West Valley City • City Council members voted 7-0 Tuesday night to admonish Mayor Mike Winder for writing news stories under a fake identity.
"While we appreciate your tireless efforts to promote the positive side of West Valley City, we do not condone dishonesty in any of its numerous shades of gray," the council's letter of reprimand reads. "We are disappointed at the actions that you took with respect to the press and the additional measures you took to hide your initial misconduct."
Before the vote was taken, Winder read a letter of apology. "I take full responsibility for my actions," the letter said. "Although I have offered numerous apologies through the media, I wanted to take this opportunity to communicate with you, my constituents, directly. I am sorry. Know that I am working hard to make things right anywhere I can, and I humbly ask for your forgiveness."
The reprimand also includes a reminder to Winder that he represents West Valley City only when authorized by a majority of the council.
Winder himself cast a ballot in favor of the admonishment. He told The Salt Lake Tribune last week that he believes a reprimand is "an important step forward in our city's healing process."
Councilwoman Carolynn Burt said that council members take Winder's actions seriously, and that a few wanted him to resign as mayor. She declined to say who wanted a resignation or whether she was one of them.
The reprimand was not meant to punish Winder but to stress to the public that council members did not know about the deception, according to Burt. She wants the public to know that the council can be trusted.
"We were not in on it," Burt said. "We do not condone it."
But one resident suggested trust could not be restored. After the meeting, West Valley City resident Connie Prows said Winder should step down as mayor.
"I would not trust the City Council again because they're standing behind him," she added.
The controversy is not over. A former UTOPIA executive claims he was defamed in an article written by Winder under his pen name of "Richard Burwash." Chris Hogan has filed notice that he plans to sue Winder; West Valley City; Winder's former employer, The Summit Group; Deseret Digital Media; and UTOPIA over the article.
Winder has been under fire since revealing last month that he had been writing articles about West Valley City issues under the Burwash name. The mayor said he was frustrated that the Deseret News had drastically reduced its city government coverage after layoffs last year, but not its crime coverage, and he wanted to "try to restore balance."
The 13 articles written by Winder were published between Sept. 10, 2010, and May 27, 2011, in the Deseret News, KSL.com and the Oquirrh Times, a weekly community newspaper.
An article published on KSL.com said that Hogan, who was a contract employee of UTOPIA, an effort by 11 cities to develop high-speed Internet for their communities, had been accused of "extortion" in court documents. The documents, which were unsealed on April 27 in Utah's 3rd District Court, were part of a lawsuit that UTOPIA filed in an attempt to keep Hogan from discussing his allegations of mismanagement and possible bid rigging at the network.
Hogan's attorney, Steve Christensen, has said the court didn't unseal those documents until more than two weeks after the story was published. He denied the extortion claim, which is based on Hogan's notification to UTOPIA that he believed his contract was wrongfully terminated and would file a suit that likely would generate adverse publicity if the network would not negotiate a settlement.
UTOPIA's attorney, David Shaw, has called Hogan's allegations "baseless." West Valley City officials and Winder said they do not comment on pending litigation. The Summit Group and Deseret Digital have not responded to a request for comment.
O Mayor Mike Winder's letter of apology • http://bit.ly/uPWyuB
The council's letter of reprimand • http://bit.ly/vX3lFc
Some emails to Winder support his intention to get good news out, while a council member objects to a "puff piece" he wrote under a pen name. ›sltrib.com