T’ville mayor’s campaign finance veto stands

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

The Taylorsville City Council failed Wednesday night to muster the two-thirds vote to override Mayor Larry Johnson’s veto of a proposed tightening of campaign finance disclosure laws.

The 3-2 vote to override concluded a lengthy discussion, including public comment, about whether more transparency was needed in the financing of campaigns of elected city officials. Currently, Taylorsville requires no more than state law, under which a candidate must file campaign reports only in a municipal election year, seven days before a primary and seven days before a general election.

However, city spokeswoman Tiffany Janzen said Thursday the council expects to reconsider a new draft of the ordinance in two weeks — one with a different deadline that the council and mayor can agree upon.

The City Council approved an ordinance on Nov. 2 that would have required an annual campaign finance report each December. But Johnson vetoed the measure six days later.

Johson’s original veto memo cited a number of reasons for opposing the proposal — including questioning the proposed date of the filing deadline — but mostly focusing on the proper role of city government.

“I do not believe that our city should seek to outthink or attempt to alter well-established and effective state law,” Johnson wrote then. “Our city policy should focus exclusively on issues that relate to improving the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”

He also cited a lack of public support for stricter campaign reporting requirements, saying no resident had asked for the change and the proposal “seeks to correct a non-existent problem.”

The mayor took some hits for his stance in social media, and the progressive nonprofit group Alliance for a Better Utah also weighed in, urging a veto override.

“Transparency is a basic safeguard to our democracy and democratic process and this ordinance says there is nothing to hide, protects the citizens of Taylorsville, and allows elected officials and those seeking office to be held accountable,” said Rachel Sanders, executive director of the alliance.

The mayor on Wednesday said he now favors annual disclosure of campaign finances, but only disagrees about the timing of the disclosure, favoring one after the candidate filing period.

Johnson complained about criticism in the news media and social media that he said had mischaracterized his position and his motivation.

“I get the feeling this ordinance targets me for a golf fundraiser I had over the summer,” Johnson said. “Anyone who has questions about my fundraising is welcome to come and review my financial disclosures anytime. We don’t need to create a special ordinance; we just have to communicate.”

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